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Burke turns on supertrawler, ‘so I’m changing the law’

It seems as though Fremantle MP Melissa Parke’s private members’ bill proposal was the final push the federal government needed to create a legislative loophole to ban the Abel Tasman super-trawler from sifting 18,000 tonnes of fish from Australian waters.

In a press conference this afternoon, Environment Minister Tony Burke and Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig announced legislation to amend the existing Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which would see the Abel Tasman banned from fishing in Australian waters for two years while an expert panel would be set up to assess all possible impacts the vessel would have on Australian marine life.

When asked how he would respond to those who were unsure as to why the government couldn’t just ban the trawler from Australia’s waters when it first arrived, Burke confidently stated that “the law didn’t allow me to, so I’m changing the law”.

Despite there being strong support amongst Labor MPs for Parke’s bill, which would have banned vessels capable of carrying more than 2000 tonnes, Burke raised the point that “the concern with that sort of approach is I think you need to keep a clear sight on what you’re trying to protect”.

Burke also told of how there was a “degree of uncertainty about how this vessel will have the capacity to stay in one place for an extended period of time”, which had prompted Labor to opt for this approach as opposed to Parke’s proposal.

Questions were also raised with the Environment Minister over the shift in Labor’s focus from protecting the by-catch of the vessel, to protecting the actual species the vessel would fish, at which point he highlighted that he and Ludwig had different roles in this situation and were working together to protect their respective portfolio interests.

Several Coalition MPs also expressed rather colourful views condemning the super-trawler, with one MP highlighting that “many of our small fishing families have gone out of business, yet it’s OK to introduce a Woolworths of the sea”.

If this bill is successful, it looks like the IGAs of the sea will live to fish another day (or another two years at least).

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  • 1
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Any law is better than allowing a behemoth like this free trawling. It is passing strange why other countries have allowed this super-trawler to operate. Unless this was PR put out by the company concerned.

  • 2
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m so sick of this activist government legislating from parliament. Who do they think they are?!?!

  • 3
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Yeah well Australia cares more about fish and sheep than they do human beings.

  • 4
    joanjett
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    My ex was a fisherman for a few months on one of the last remaining small trawlers operating from the fish markets in Pyrmont, Sydney. What he saw changed him. He was by no means an environmentalist (nor is now from what I know) but it shocked him how many creatures were hoovered up by the nets. He used to try to throw as many back overboard as possible (that were unable to be sold) but said that often by the time the net was dragged up on deck, the pressure or drowning killed many of unfortunate creatures, fish, marine mammal or turtle.
    Due to the illegalities of some of the catch, much was turfed overboard around the mouth of the Hawkesbury to wash up on Mackeral beach, rot and be eaten by the delighted goannas.
    He fled that job as soon as he could.
    I don’t think that human beings rate higher on the scale of species than fish or sheep either. We all have a right to be here and to exist without the threat of extinction.

  • 5
    Scott
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    The boat had a fishing quota. It was taking a sustainable amount of fish. A big ship is just more efficient (i.e can get it’s quota more quickly…less fuel, more profits). It doesn’t mean it can catch more fish.

    But hey, don’t let the facts get in the way of a beat up.

    Oh, and for those who think the quota was based on 10 year old figures (as advocated by Andrew Wadsley), read this note

    http://www.afma.gov.au/2012/09/report-by-the-institute-of-marine-and-antarctic-studies-reproducing-the-mortality-model-in-neira-2011/

  • 6
    fredex
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    I suspect a better way to get around the problem would be to legislate that commercial [and recreational too for that matter I suppose] fishing of any tonnage only be allowed for species that have the reproductive ability to exceed their losses from that fishing.
    Hence sustainability.
    So we can have the food, sport, industry ‘tomorrow’.
    My understanding [via ‘the conversation’] is that the species targeted by this trawler are in a scientific void, that is, their numbers and reproduction rates are essentially unknown with any degree of precision. In which case prevention is better than exploitation.

  • 7
    Gregory Gee
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Yeah well Australia cares more about fish and sheep than they do human beings.”

    What does that even mean? In what way have human beings, as a whole, or Australians, as a country, been treated poorly, disadvantaged, or harmed by the end result of this piece of legislation?

    Fisheries collapse when they are treated like a fish-mine. This is what these ships do. This legislation helps that a little.

    What would you have them do instead?

  • 8
    GeeWizz
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Did Labor manage to pick up the phone to the people affected by this decision and whose livelihood depends on it or did they do what they did with the live cattle ban, knee jerk reaction and screw the consequences and the devastation left in Labors wake?

  • 9
    joanjett
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and Labor giving a neanderthal like Campbell Newman control over the Barrier Reef just beggars belief! WTF?

  • 10
    Microseris
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Troofie er Geewizz, since your so concerned by livelihoods of the common man, what about the thousands of public servants who have been cut adrift by the state conservatives? Baillieu, Newman, et al. You picking up the phone for them or don’t they count?

  • 11
    fredex
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    This site badly needs smileys.
    So we could have a smily of a head butting against a brick wall of stupidity and greed.

  • 12
    GeeWizz
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    CRIKEY MODERATION: This comment has been removed. It contained offensive language. Please consult our code of conduct for more information.

  • 13
    Owen Gary
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    I should bl-oody well think so as well. its one thing to put all kinds of restrictions on recreational fisherman to then turn around & let a floating factory mop up everything in Australian waters including on most occassions ripping the tops off coral reefs.

    I still don’t think this is enough when you take into account other trawlers & we don’t know how many are out at sea at any one time. They can still mop up 2,000 tons at a time. You just need to look in Woolworths & Coles to see how small a large proportion of those fish are that are being sold. If you took home a catch that small after a days fishing you would be fined very heavily. I guess it’s ok for the big guys as usual to get away with selling undersize fish.

    I still can’t believe these trawlers are allowed to use nets that are rigged for small catches, surely in this day & age hole size in these nets need to be revised in order to sustain fishstocks.

  • 14
    Edward James
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    I pay to subscribe to Crikey.com.au ….Not Paul Barry. If he wants me to comment he should accept I am already identified on crikey.com.au . I do not want to hook in with him, in fact i resent his intrusion into my paid domain . I am hooked into and pay Crikey.com.au I expect Crikey to look after me, not farm me out to other near do wells like Paul Barry !

  • 15
    Damotron
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    One of the best things the Government has done. This is a win for the environment and a win for our local commercial fisherman. A lot of small communities in Tasmania rely on commercial fishing and the last thing they need is a corporate super trawler wiping out their fish stocks as well as their livelihoods. This is a very sensible decision.

  • 16
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps one of the “experts” who are mouthing off about the government protecting our marine life could come up with something useful. ie Is it true that Australia’s continental shelf is different to other countries-shallower, I think-which gives us less variety of fish, and less of them, compared to countries which, for example, abut onto the Humboldt current around the western side of South America?

    This is no more than a faint remembrance of something I read years ago, and I could have been misinformed. However, it would be interesting to know whether or not this could be an added factor which induced the government to act the way they have.

    Those people complaining about the government being a nanny state and who are automatically assuming the people who are against super trawlers like the Abel Tasman are doing so because they are gooey eyed about conservation, and prefer animals to humans, might ask themselves how the hëll all these precious people are going to eat when all the worlds marine life has been fished out? The fact that so much of the catch has to be thrown overboard because it contravenes existing laws about netting sea lions, turtles and marine bird-life, shows the wanton wastefulness created by this “Woolworths of the sea.” Not to mention the extinguishing of a fish species’ breeding stock.

    Finally, the company responsible for this vacuum harvesting of marine life have now come out with the tried and true complaint about having to lay off staff, all because the big bad government has stomped on their plan to fleece the ocean; {all fifty of them.} How bløødy pathetic. What typical bullying tactics. How stupid do they think Australians are? Well, judging by some of the above comments, they may have a point.

  • 17
    geomac62
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Seafish Tasmania director Gerry Geen was on the board that approved the factory ship to take 18,000 tons of fish . That to me is the story that should be investigated . The process to approve the catch obviously needs some tweaking if a director has input to a decision his company wants to see implemented . Who supplied the data and who paid for the data ? Thats the story not the belated stopping of the ship .

  • 18
    geomac62
    Posted Tuesday, 11 September 2012 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Seafish Tasmania director Gerry Geen was on the board that approved the factory ship to take 18,000 tons of fish . That to me is the story that should be investigated . The process to approve the catch obviously needs some tweaking if a director has input to a decision his company wants to see implemented . Who provided the data and who paid for the data ? Why wasn,t Geen removed from any input into the decision ? Thats the story not the belated stopping of the ship .

  • 19
    calyptorhynchus
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    It’s astonishing, just occasionally you wake up up in the morning and read the news and the Government is actually doing the Right Thing.
    It’s so long between these incidents you forget what it feels like.
    I think this one will succeed because it has support from the left (conservation) and the Right (economic nationalism), though I have been amused by some comments on this topic along the lines of “Thank heaven our fishermen have been spared from this super-trawler, now all we need to do is remove restrictions on marine reserves and parks” (ie thank heavens foreigners aren’t destroying our resources, now let us do it ourselves).

  • 20
    Scott
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Not true GEOMAC62. The AFMA Commission approved the quota.

    Gerry Green was on a committee advising the Commission, but the Commission were the ones making the decision (which is made up of scientific, economic, business and government experts)

  • 21
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    SCOTT: The size of that ship has everything to do with the question. At the moment Australia has a relatively moderate population, therefore it must be doubtful if the entire catch could be consumed here. This would enable the trawler to head straight for the foreign market. Leaving Australia in the perennial situation of mining the guts out our own soil/sea reserves in order to sell to the overseas market; China? Japan?

    I was once at a prospecting site, and the minute the first traces of ore were recovered, the owner squealed with delight and said “We can flog this off to America!” Never any consideration for the future of Australia is the message all miners are concerned about. I fail to see any distinction between the two mentalities.

    Over fishing throughout history has seen the decimation of many fish species. And it is almost certain Japan already has one or two of these super trawlers being built. If I’m right, God help the whales-the ones that are left over.

  • 22
    Scott
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Again, the AFMA approved the boat to fish a specific quota, around 5% of the estimated population of the particular fish species in the waters. This was deemed, by the scientific experts no less, to be a sustainable amount of fish (i.e one that would not affect long term fish stocks).
    Read the link I posted. It gives a nice summary of the science and population models used.

    It doesn’t matter where the fish goes at the end of the day, whether sold here or overseas. Obviously they would prefer to sell it here (as it would be cheaper to transport), but if not, why not sell overseas and help other countries feed themselves with cheaper fish than those caught using traditional methods.

  • 23
    Edward James
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I don’t believe there are enough fish in the seas for us to keep doing what we are all doing ! Edward James

  • 24
    fredex
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    From
    Jessica Meeuwig
    Research Professor, UWA Oceans Institute at University of Western Australia

    We need to understand the species we are exploiting in our fisheries (red vs. blue) and we need to know how many there are. The science case for introducing a trawler to exploit southern small pelagics is weak in both these areas. As such, it does not support the introduction of super trawling in Australia.”

    Details of the lack of knowledge include:

    But we are largely ignorant about the effective population structure of these species. Of the four species considered for exploitation, the population structure of blue mackerel is uncertain, and jack mackerel and redbait are believed to have eastern and western subpopulations. No dedicated population studies have been conducted on redbait nor is any information available for Peruvian jack mackerel. Moreover, little is reported about adult movements of any of these species except that larger jack mackerel are found in deeper waters.

    The total allowable catch of approximately 18,000 tonnes is a 10-fold increase over previous years’ landings …
    Indeed, ABARES assessments of population status are based on fishing effort rather than actual population size.”

    Article at “The Conversation”

  • 25
    Edward James
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Talk of tipping points when discussing oil. What about population tipping points when discussing fish species. I spend a little time thinking about how plastics and other toxic contaminates are damaging our fish stocks world wide, in ways not well investigated. The idea that toxic contaminates including mercury are concentrated as predators are consumed up through the food chain, lets me reflect on the fact people like me are at the top of these food chains. Edward James

  • 26
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    FREDEX: (Jessica Meeuwig) Thanks for the information re “The Conversation”, I did read it. Most interesting.

  • 27
    Scott
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    @Fedex

    Yes, I have read Jessica’s work.

    You can either go with Jessica, or with the scientific experts on the Commission, which include experts on fishing (Dr James Findlay) and marine ecology (Prof Keith Sainsbury) using the population model (developed by Dr Francisco Neira, whose expertise is Marine Conservation & Resource Sustainability) that was independently reviewed by the scientists at SARDI (or the South Australian Research and Development Institute)

  • 28
    calyptorhynchus
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I’ll go with Jessica, not another industry ‘scientific’ whitewash, thanks.

  • 29
    calyptorhynchus
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    ps I was wrong about by bipartisan support. Meh, do I care what the Liberal Party think?

  • 30
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    CALYPTORHYNCHUS: Exactly what I was thinking, “”I’ll go with Jessica, not another industry ‘scientific’ whitewash, thanks.”“

  • 31
    fredex
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Scott

    I am sceptical [in extremis], based on previous experiences, of anything that emanates from ABARES.
    It was [voluntarily] captured by the various industries long ago.

    Note that in AFMA’s own FAQ section on the trawler they cite 3 of the 7 species as having no DEPM.
    And, as Meeuwig points out, the phrase “low catches indicate overfishing is not occurring” is used frequently for the various species, plus we have, as Meeuwig points out, problems with definitions.

    I’ll go with Meeuwig.

    And as an additional comment - there is doubt that we have sufficient knowledge and ‘when in doubt, don’t”.

  • 32
    Hugh (Charlie) McColl
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Scott, back at the beginning you wrote:
    “The boat had a fishing quota.”
    On TV the other night the minister said that the boat did not have a quota. He said the quota belonged to the company (Seafish Tasmania?) which was intending to hire the services of the super trawler. The question being answered by the minister related to the possibility of the trawler owners suing for compensation. The minister seemed to be saying there would be no basis for compensation because the trawler and its owners had not been granted any quota and therefore it was not being taken from them.

  • 33
    geomac62
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    The Age
    Mr Wilkie raised doubts over a potential conflict of interest in advice from an AFMA advisory committee. A member of the Margiris joint venture, Seafish Tasmania director Gerry Geen, was present when the advice to lift the quota was determined .

    AFMA chief executive James Findlay told Mr Wilkie that, because any member of an advisory committee could be argued to have a conflict of interest, there was a “standing arrangement” to allow people such as Mr Geen to remain unless there was an objection.

    Mr Findlay said this complied with the Fisheries Administration Act, but Mr Wilkie said the “standing arrangement” raised more questions than it answered, and AFMA appeared to have acted unlawfully.

    AFMA has claimed strong scientific backing for its approach, but aquatic policy specialist Jon Nevill said the organisation’s processes were fundamentally wrong.

    Instead of taking the approach of considering the effect of fishing on the whole ecosystem, AFMA adopted a “single stock” concept, Dr Nevill said.

    Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/political-news/wilkie-raises-legal-query-over-super-trawler-20120803-23k1j.html#ixzz26DfeHDJR

  • 34
    SBH
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Now while we’re all busy worrying about how this fish is caught, are any of us thinking about protecting the marine environment by eating less fish?

  • 35
    geomac62
    Posted Wednesday, 12 September 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Mr Wilkie raised doubts over a potential conflict of interest in advice from an AFMA advisory committee. A member of the Margiris joint venture, Seafish Tasmania director Gerry Geen, was present when the advice to lift the quota was determined .

    AFMA chief executive James Findlay told Mr Wilkie that, because any member of an advisory committee could be argued to have a conflict of interest, there was a “standing arrangement” to allow people such as Mr Geen to remain unless there was an objection.

    Mr Findlay said this compli ed with the Fisheries Administration Act, but Mr Wilkie said the “standing arrangement” raised more questions than it answered, and AFMA appeared to have acted unlawfully.

    AFMA has claimed strong scientific backing for its approach, but aquatic policy specialist Jon Nevill said the organisation’s processes were fundamentally wrong.

    Instead of taking the approach of considering the effect of fishing on the whole ecosystem, AFMA adopted a “single stock” concept, Dr Nevill said.

  • 36
    izatso?
    Posted Sunday, 16 September 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    deliberate misrepresenting from AMFA gives Margiris/Abel Tasman (?) the escape clause for compensation …… pathetic. see TPP false trade deal for inversion of contemporary rights/expectations.

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