The Australian government Tuesday announced plans to change its environmental protection laws to prevent a controversial super-trawler from fishing in its waters.
The 9,500-tonne FV Margiris, recently reflagged as the Abel Tasman, is currently docked at Port Lincoln in South Australia, but under the new laws would not be able to fish until new scientific research had been carried out.
Environment Minister Tony Burke earlier sought legal advice about whether he could intervene over concerns that dolphins, seals, seabirds and other marine life would inadvertently get swept up in the ship’s huge nets.
But he was limited by the current legislation, prompting new laws to be introduced to parliament later Tuesday that, if passed, would extend his powers.
“If we get this wrong there are risks to the environment, to commercial operators and to everyone who loves fishing and they are risks I am not prepared to take,” Burke said.
“There has never been a fishing vessel of this capacity in Australia before and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act needs to be updated so that it can deal with it.”
The amendment would prohibit the 143-metre (469-foot) trawler from fishing in Australian waters until a further assessment over its impact was undertaken by an expert panel.
“While that work is being undertaken the relevant fishing activity cannot take place within Australian waters for a period of up to two years,” Burke said.
There were protests among conservation groups and local fishermen when it was announced earlier this year that the ship would fish off Tasmania, and Greenpeace protesters tried to prevent it docking in Port Lincoln.
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority has dismissed concerns about over-fishing, saying the trawler would be allowed to catch just 10 percent of available fish and would have little, if any, impact on the broader ecosystem.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]