Super trawler leaving Australia

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 02 Maret 2013 | 19.55

THE super trawler Abel Tasman is to leave Australian waters without catching a fish.

After a massive community and political campaign against the ship, its Tasmanian operators have confirmed it has been sold, its Australian registration abandoned and the vessel is to depart within days.

The news was greeted with joy by fishing and environment groups, which waged a long campaign against the trawler on the grounds it could ravage local fish stocks.

Seafish Tasmania director Gerry Geen last night confirmed the ship would sail soon.

"This is a lost opportunity for Australia to create sustainable jobs and economic benefits from an undeveloped fish resource," Mr Geen said.

"The vessel will be leaving Australia in the near future."

He accused federal Environment Minister Tony Burke of waging a "non-scientific, populist campaign" against his company.

"This political interference to override the science-based fisheries quota system has made Australia a laughing stock internationally," Mr Geen said.

Formerly known as the FV Margiris, the 142m ship is the world's second-largest fishing vessel.

It has been a lightning rod for controversy since plans by Seafish Tasmania for the vessel to catch a quota of 18,000 tonnes of jack mackerel and redbait from waters stretching from southern Queensland to Western Australia.

An Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokeswoman yesterday confirmed the Abel Tasman had changed its registration and was "no longer an Australian registered vessel".

"We believe it is seeking Lithuanian registration," she said.

Stop The Trawler Alliance spokesman Nobby Clark welcomed the news.

"If it is heading back I'd be very happy to hear it," Mr Clark said.

"I won't be comfortable until it's back where it came from.

"I'm not against super trawlers, we just haven't got the data what fish are out there."

The ship has been berthed at Port Lincoln for months while controversy raged.

Last month after Seafish revealed a proposal to work with a flotilla of smaller fishing vessel, Mr Burke signed an interim declaration to prevent the Abel Tasman from operating as a freezing and processing vessel.

Mr Burke said the initial ban for 60 days would be assessed before a decision was made whether the ban should stay in place for two years while further scientific research was undertaken.

Legislation banning the super trawler from fishing in Australian waters for two years passed the Senate in September.

Yesterday, Mr Burke was not sad to see the vessel go, saying: "The message to everyone is clear -- this Government won't take risks with our ocean. And if the Liberals take charge it will be back by Christmas."

Seafish Tasmania is taking legal action against the Federal Government following the decision to ban the Abel Tasman from fishing in Australian waters.

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