Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Water Tony Burke stated he's not prepared to take risks for the environment. (Photo: tonyburke.com.au)
Minister introduces legislation to ban super trawler
Wednesday, September 12, 2012, 00:20 (GMT + 9)
Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Water Tony Burke announced that he will introduce legislation to extend legal powers over the super trawler FV Abel Tasman (formerly FV Margiris) to keep it from fishing in Australian waters. This measure could prohibit the vessel from fishing in territorial waters for two years, until further scientific research is carried out.
“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,” Burke stated.
The official mentioned that there has never been a vessel of this capacity in Australia before and that the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act needs to be updated so that it can address the vessel’s presence in territorial waters.
Although last week Burke used the EPBC Act to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken by the super trawler to limit the potential for harmful bycatch of dolphins, seals and threatened or protected species, he said he wants to do more, as he noted that people are worried about the environmental, social and economic impacts of a fishing vessel of this size.
Burke explained that currently there are no general powers in the EPBC Act to prevent new fishing vessels from operating while further scientific assessments are undertaken.
“I have been lobbied for some time on this issue by a large number of Labor MPs. It was my view that legislative change should not be pursued until we knew how far I could go under current law,” he remarked.
“Once it was clear that my legal powers under the EPBC Act were constrained I commenced working with my department on these changes.
If the law doesn’t allow me to properly protect the oceans, then we need to change the law,” Burke declared. “That is why I have directed that urgent legislation be drafted to amend the EPBC Act to stop the FV Abel Tasman.”
The amendment will prohibit the super trawler engaging in a declared fishing activity in Commonwealth waters while another assessment is run by an expert panel that will report directly to Burke and Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig. The process will take around two years.
If the amendment is passed, Burke will be able to work with Ludwig to establish an expert panel to conduct an assessment of all of the potential impacts of the FV Abel Tasman before it can be given approval to fish in Australia.
“It is important we undertake an open and transparent assessment process to help restore the public’s confidence in our management of our Commonwealth waters,” Burke added.
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By Natalia Real