The Australian 16/8/2012
- ENVIRONMENT Minister Tony Burke is considering a dramatic intervention to suspend approvals for the first super-trawler to operate in Australian waters, while a review of its effects is carried out.
Mr Burke is concerned about the impact the 9500-tonne Dutch-registered ship, Margiris, will have on fish stocks. He is also reportedly alarmed at the speed with which the Australian Fishing Management Authority has rejected his concerns.
There has been a growing swell of protest against the Margiris, the world's second-largest super-trawler, which will be the biggest fishing vessel to operate in Australian waters.
A petition against the ship with 35,000 names was lodged at a rally held by environmentalists and recreational fishermen in Canberra yesterday.
Mr Burke is understood to be seeking urgent advice on his powers to intervene.
In a radio interview this week he said super-trawlers posed new issues for fisheries management.
"It is possible that one large vessel, even though it might be doing something that's deemed sustainable across the whole fishery, could have a localised impact in some areas that is in fact not sustainable at a more local level," he said.
"I don't want to pretend it's easy or there's no extra complications with a large vessel.
"There are and they'll have to be worked through," he said.
"A quota has to be issued on the basis of sustainability."
The AFMA said there was no evidence that larger boats posed a bigger risk.
"Large boats with freezing capacity are not restricted to fishing in areas close to processing facilities, as has historically been the case," it said.
"Therefore, the risk of localised depletion may be reduced by the introduction of larger boats that can range more widely throughout the fishery, which stretches from southern Queensland to southern Western Australia."
The AFMA said the fishery was split into two zones with separate catch limits, ensuring the quota could not be taken from just one area.
The authority said scientific advice suggested that, given the mobile nature of small pelagic species being targeted by the super-trawler, localised reductions in abundance were less likely to be a problem than if the species being fished stayed in one area.