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Super trawler given green light

FEDERAL Environment Minister Tony Burke has given the controversial super trawler the FV Margiris the go ahead to operate in Commonwealth waters.

In a statement released today, the minister has outlined new conditions placed on the massive ship as it aims to net an 18,000 tonne quota of pelagic baitfish from waters around Australia.

Under these conditions the trawler’s operators have “to take all reasonable steps to ensure that listed threatened species, listed migratory species, cetaceans and listed marine species are not killed or injured as a result of trawling operations.”

“My role as environment minister is to ensure that fisheries are managed in a way that protects Australia’s biodiversity, particularly as they relate to specific listed species,” Burke said.

“This is the first time a trawler with a storage capacity of 2000 tonne or more is likely to operate in an Australian fishery and I think it is important to take a precautionary approach – one that proactively seeks to manage potential risks to wildlife.

“I want to ensure that the environmental impact is no more than if the same quota was being fished by a smaller vessel.

“I am using my powers to amend accreditation of the fishery in a way that ensures if the super trawler cannot adhere to the conditions it will be liable to prosecution under the EPBC Act.

“The conditions I have developed will require the super trawler to adopt worlds-best practice methods to avoid listed species, particularly seals, dolphins and sea birds being killed or injured during its trawling operations,” Burke said.

The conditions are being imposed for an initial two week period to give the trawler’s owners, Seafish Tasmania, an opportunity to comment on the conditions.

The Environment Minister says he will consider comments received before applying conditions in the longer term.

The conditions include:

  • In the event of one or more dolphin deaths as a result of mid-water trawl fishing activities the super trawler must suspend fishing, consult with an AFMA observer on board and review the effectiveness of mitigation measures and not recommence fishing within 50 nautical miles of the event.
  • In the event of three or more seal deaths in three consecutive shots or more than 10 seal deaths within a 24 hour period, the operator must suspend fishing, consult with an AFMA observer on board and review the effectiveness of mitigation measures and not recommence fishing within 50 nautical miles of the event.
  • Provisions to exclude the vessel from Australian sea lion hunting grounds;
  • Provisions to require an onboard observer and underwater camera record of the by catch excluder device 24 hours a day;
  • Provisions to require seal and seabird management plans and gear handling and net setting rules be in place before trawling begins;
  • Provisions to require daily reporting on any incidents involving protected wildlife and regular reviews of the vessels response to such incidents.

“My decision has been based on a rigorous assessment by my department of the potential environmental impact of a large mid-water trawl freezer vessel, such as the super trawler, entering the fishery,” Burke said.

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