After a significant public uprising against the proposed approval of fishing permits for the controversial super-trawler the Abel Tasman, the Australian government has introduced new laws to ban it from Australian waters for at least two years. Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke will introduce new laws to parliament today to give the government more powers to stop the trawler and protect Australian fisheries. Existing environmental laws did not legislate for vessels of the Abel Tasman’s size and haul potential. The vessel is licensed to take 18,000 metric tons of mainly mackerel and red bait fish, using 600-meter nets.
The presence of the 142-meter (466-foot) trawler, which has been called a “fishing factory” has triggered strong protest by environmental groups. Public sentiment against the super trawler and intense lobbying from environmental groups prompted action, Mr Burke admitted. “There has been a massive public focus on this, the key relevance of that has been the extent to which it has undermined confidence in our management,” Burke said. “There is no doubt that confidence in our management of fisheries and by-catch issues has been undermined.”
Burke said concern over the trawler’s ability to catch a huge amount of fish and kill many protected animals in a localized area also prompted the law change. “If we get this wrong there are risks to the environment, to commercial operators and to everyone who loves fishing and they are risks I am not prepared to take,” he said. “There has never been a fishing vessel of this capacity in Australia before and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) needs to be updated so that it can deal with it.” He confirmed that the EPBC will be updated.
Paul Oosting from GetUp, whose website petition attracted 90,000 signatures, said the ship would have devastated local fisheries and impacted on protected species. “Under the proposed conditions for fishing, the super-trawler could have legally killed up to 10 seals a day,” he said. “That is not acceptable.”
Tuna Club Tasmania’s Neil “Nobby” Clarke added: “Right from the start we believed that this vessel outdated the harvest strategy. The sheer efficiency of this vessel means that the science needed to be rock solid.”