Environment Minister Tony Burke has expressed confidence the federal government is on solid legal ground after confirming a ban on the supertrawler Abel Tasman fishing in Australian waters.
Mr Burke signed into force on Monday a two-year ban on any supertrawler operating in the small pelagic fishery, using new laws introduced after the Dutch ship's arrival in Australia.
Mr Burke acknowledged operator Seafish Tasmania had made it clear it would pursue all available legal options in response to the ban, but said: "We believe we're on completely strong legal ground".
"Under environmental law it is not uncommon for a project to be held up while checks are being performed," Mr Burke said. "Not uncommon at all."
The Abel Tasman decision marks an emphatic move into Commonwealth oceans management by the minister, who found he had needed to legislate to enforce powers already available on land.
After months of controversy about the largest fishing vessel ever slated for Australian waters, Mr Burke in September declared an interim ban on trawling in the small pelagic fishery by any vessel of the 142-metre Abel Tasman's size.
It had planned to trawl offshore between New South Wales and Western Australia for up to 18,000 tonnes of redbait and mackerel.
Mr Burke said his mind was made up to enforce the ban after a 60 day comment period when he was advised of uncertainty about the 142 metre Dutch-owned trawler's effect on localised depletion of its target redbait and mackerel species.
There were also doubts about the trawler's effects on target species' predators, including dolphins and seals, he said.
An expert panel will now be convened to assess the effects of the supertrawler over the two year period, and report back to the minister.
Seafish was taken aback by the government's decision, after it sought to negotiate a compromise with Mr Burke to address the specific concerns and was rebuffed.
Seafish director Gerry Geen told Fairfax Media the joint venturers did not want to go down the route of legal action, but all options would be on the table.
Mr Geen said they were "absolutely" entitled to compensation for the many millions of dollars the venture had cost so far.
"Any reasonable person would say that if you were given a green light by a government, and then months later you are stopped, then yes, we should be compensated," Mr Geen said.
The Coalition's Fisheries spokesman, Richard Colbeck, said Mr Burke had trashed the reputation of Australia's science-based fisheries management system in favour of populism, just as the Government did with the live export industry.
The ship remains tied up at Port Lincoln, South Australia, and the Stop the Supertrawler Alliance said it expected the vessel to now leave Australian waters.
Greenpeace said the UN had found that the global fishing fleet was 2.5 times too big for fish stocks to sustain. “The only place for the supertrawler is on the scrap heap,” said Greenpeace Program Director Ben Pearson.