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Super trawler challenges ban in court

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Hobart correspondent for Fairfax Media

View more articles from Andrew Darby

The Abel Tasman super-trawler.

The Abel Tasman super-trawler. Photo: Supplied

Backers of the super trawler Abel Tasman have begun Federal Court action against the government’s decision to ban fishing by it in Australian waters.

Seafish Tasmania Pelagic is seeking a judicial review of Environment Minister Tony  Burke’s referral of its application to fish to an expert panel for an environmental impact assessment.

Listed for directions in March, the case also names Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig as a respondent.

Lodged in Brisbane earlier this month, it came to light on Wednesday following Mr Burke’s decision to knock back a second attempt to use the Abel Tasman - this time as a factory freezer mother ship for a fleet of smaller trawlers.

Seafish again ran foul of Federal law allowing Mr Burke to order scrutiny of the plan’s environmental impact.

Mr Burke said he was concerned about the same environmental issues as in the first attempt to fish, including localised depletion of mackerel and redbait.

A director of Seafish, Ulladulla fisherman Joe Pirrello, said the company would now implement its "considerable legal options"  against Mr Burke and the Australian government.

Mr Pirrello said the company would be taking legal advice on the new decision by Mr Burke. 

"My guess is that we’ll merge it in," he said.

He said a recent Australian Fisheries Management Authority committee meeting had supported the second proposal, which was to go to the AFMA board for approval on 25 February.

Under this plan, five Australian trawlers, employing around 40 people, would have fished a combined quota of up to 25,000 tonnes, he said.

The 143 metre, Dutch-owned Abel Tasman, formerly called Margiris, came to Australia last year to fish an 18,000 tonne quota Seafish holds.  It remains tied up at Port Lincoln, South Australia.

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