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Federal

Sep 11, 2012

Burke turns on supertrawler, 'so I'm changing the law'

Melissa Parke's private members' bill 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.

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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36 comments

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

  1. Venise Alstergren

    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. Daniel

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

  3. shepherdmarilyn

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

  4. joanjett

    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

    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

    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

    “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

    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

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

  10. Microseris

    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?

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