Burke rejects second bid to use super trawler
The super trawler, the Abel Tasman, has been blocked again from fishing in Australian waters. Photo: Janie Barrett
A renewed attempt to use the controversial super trawler Abel Tasman in Australian waters has been blocked by federal Environment Minister Tony Burke.
The ship, which was banned from fishing by Mr Burke last year, is being prevented from operating as a factory-freezer mother ship to be supplied by smaller trawlers in the same small pelagic fishery.
The 9500-tonne fishing boat, formerly called Margiris, came to Australia last year to fish an 18,000-tonne quota that operator Seafish Tasmania holds for mackerel and redbait.
After permission was refused by Mr Burke last November it was tied up at Port Lincoln, South Australia, while Seafish Tasmania sought other means of fishing.
The company's managing director, Joe Pirrello, announced a plan last month to use a fleet of smaller vessels to catch the fish and deliver it to the Abel Tasman for freezing and storage.
''The Abel Tasman will not put a net in the water," Mr Pirrello said.
Conservation groups opposed the plan. The Tasmanian Conservation Trust said it again raised concerns about localised depletion of small pelagic species. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie queried whether it was an attempt to circumvent the ban.
Mr Burke said on Tuesday that he was concerned about the same environmental consequences as the first proposal, and that he had halted the process under national environmental law.
''This declaration will prevent the super trawler from operating in the manner proposed for six weeks while the company responds,'' Mr Burke said.
''At the end of that period, I reserve the right to bring in a final declaration which would prevent the vessel from operating in this way for up to two years while scientific work is carried out on the environmental impact of this new method of fishing.''
Last week he announced the formation of a scientific panel set up in response to the original declaration to assess the scientific impacts of the super trawler.
It is to be chaired by Mary Lack, a former senior policy manager with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority who has since consulted widely internationally.
The other members of the four-member panel include Professor Peter Harrison who has more than 30 years experience in marine science research, Associate Professor Simon Goldsworthy has been undertaking research in marine biology for more than 20 years and Dr Cathy Bulman who is a senior fisheries biologist with CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.
Their report is due by October 22, 2014.