Burke to ban “super freezer”

FEDERAL Environment Minister Tony Burke has rejected a proposal from Seafish Tasmania to operate the Dutch-owned super trawler, now called Abel Tasman, as a giant floating freezer off the Australian coast.

Minister Burke told ABC’s Lateline last night he has decided to go through the process of banning the super trawler from operating in Australian waters.

Excerpt of transcript from Lateline interview with Emma Alberici:

EMMA ALBERICI: We are joined now in our Canberra studio by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke.

Mr Burke, I understand you have an announcement to make on the super trawler. Tell us what that’s about.

TONY BURKE: The super trawler came back with what they regarded as a compromise proposal, which was that the trawler wouldn’t put out its own net and it would operate essentially as a giant refrigerator in the ocean and smaller trawlers would go off and come back to it as some sort of mothership arrangement.

I asked my department for advice on first, was it a new fishing activity, and secondly, environmentally, did it raise – even though it was a very different method – did it raise the same sorts of problems as last time?

I have now gone through that departmental advice in the last couple of hours and have determined that, yes, it’s a new fishing activity, and yes, a whole – even though it looks like a compromise on the face of it – a whole lot of the environmental problems that we had last time are replicated again under this so-called compromise model.

So I have initiated the process tonight to go through the different methods of consultation that have to happen before I can go ahead with a fresh ban on the new proposal for the super trawler.

EMMA ALBERICI: So are you saying that you are going to ban it outright?

TONY BURKE: I’ve started the first stage of that tonight. There are about three steps I have to go to.

First is to get agreement from the Minister for Fisheries, second is to give them a six-month notice period – a six-week notice period where the company gets a natural justice opportunity to respond and then at the end of that the option is there for a further two-year ban on the additional proposal that they have had.

But effectively, even though it sounds like, oh, they’re not putting the net out, maybe there’s not a problem, for the advice that came back for seals and dolphins and localised depletion, the problems that arise are exactly the same. For sea birds, the problems that arise are potentially worse.

So, while on the face of it it might not make for as bad images when they are not throwing that giant net out, my concern is does the environment benefit from that sort of compromise?, and all the advice I’ve had now says no.

EMMA ALBERICI: And are you concerned about a potential legal action from the Dutch company that owns the super trawler because they have certainly threatened that in the past?

TONY BURKE: They threatened that in the past. They have told me directly that they may well go down that pathway. From my perspective, this government has taken a highly cautious view when it comes to the ocean. We are very committed to making sure we have proper protections and safeguards in for the ocean. And as long as there is a significant environmental risk and the scientific work hasn’t been done, I’m not going to have a view that says we will just go out, let them fish and see where it lands.

View the interview here:

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