Burke names trawler panel

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 06 Februari 2013 | 19.55

FEDERAL Environment Minister Tony Burke will wait for legal advice before deciding if a banned super trawler should be allowed to operate as a giant freezer for smaller ships fishing in Australian waters.

The company behind the Abel Tasman, the factory ship controversially banned from fishing last year, has written to Mr Burke about its proposal to act as a "mother ship" for smaller vessels.

Under the proposal from Seafish Tasmania, small ships could transfer catches of mackerel and redbait to the Abel Tasman's large onboard freezer facilities for processing.

Mr Burke rushed legislation through parliament in September giving him new powers to ban the trawler for two years while its environmental impact was assessed by an expert panel.

He can also refer new fishing methods to that expert panel for review and take further action to make those activities illegal if necessary.

Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie, a staunch opponent to the vessel, said Seafish Tasmania was cynically attempting to circumvent the ban and asked what Mr Burke was doing to "stop the madness".

Mr Burke said he had asked his department to prepare fresh legal advice about this proposal and wouldn't prejudge the outcome.

"But on the face of it, many of the environmental issues we were dealing with a few months ago still arise in this new proposal," he told parliament.

The minister has written to Seafish Tasmania warning the company he reserved the right to deny their proposal.

Mr Burke today announced the make-up of a four-member expert panel chosen to determine the future of super trawlers in Australia.

The panel will assess the environmental impacts of factory vessels like the Abel Tasman, the largest factory ship ever to enter Australia.

Its plan to fish for an 18,000 tonnes catch in waters stretching from southern Queensland to the Bass Strait and Western Australia caused public outcry and led to Mr Burke taking action.

The panel will be chaired by Mary Lack, a company director with more than 25 years of experience in fisheries management.

The panel has until October next year to make its conclusions and report back to the environment minister.

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