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article imageSuper trawler scuppered as Australia moves to block FV Margiris

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By Elizabeth Batt     Sep 11, 2012 in Environment
Canberra - Not even a name change from the FV Margiris to the Abel Tasman could quell the outrage by conservation groups over allowing a mega super trawler to fish Australian waters. Environment Minister Tony Burke is now rushing through laws to ban the behemoth.
"We stopped it!" screams an image on the Facebook campaign page: Turn Away the Super Trawler, a campaign established by the Tasmanian Greens to raise concern over the impact of the FV Margiris on Australia's ocean life. The collective sighs of relief virtually leaped off the page at the welcome news that Environment Minister Tony Burke was rushing through an amended law to stop the mega-tonne trawler fishing in Aussie waters.
The 9,500-tonne trawler which docked at Port Lincoln in South Australia on August 30 for a name change and re-flagging as an Aussie vessel, was set to deploy to Tasmania with an 18,000 tonne quota to fish for jack mackerel and red bait fish. Although operating under strict conditions which called for a suspension if a dolphin or three plus seals died in its net, many conservation-aware individuals flat out did not want it there.
According to AFP News on Yahoo, Minister Burke originally told ABC Television that under national environmental law he did not have the power to block the FV Margiris completely over the fish it wanted it to trawl for, but could impose rules on bycatch such as dolphins and seals.
Now reports The Sydney Morning Herald, Burke plans to enact federal environmental protection laws to prevent the super trawler fishing in Australian waters for two years, and until more research into environmental impact is conducted.
"Locals in Tasmania are delighted with the Government's move" reports ABC News Australia. Nobby Clarke, the president of the Tuna Club of Tasmania, called it "a victory for the little guys" but Commonwealth Fisheries Association spokesman Brian Jeffriess told ABC, that he believed that the "federal government had ignored scientific advice and made the wrong move."
"What the Government has in effect done," Jeffriess explained, "has said we just ignore evidence-based decisions and ignore the science and go ahead with this kind of broad sweeping power."
But perhaps it is less about science and more about the will of the people?
In a non-scientific poll that closed today on The Age, ninety-five percent of people answered "No" to the question: Should the supertrawler be permitted to fish in Australian waters?
Meanwhile, the Tasmanian Greens, one of 14 groups to oppose the trawler, wrote on their Turn Away the Super Trawler page:
A massive thank you to all of you, the passionate fisho's, environmentalists and everyday Aussies who've put your name to this campaign. All the boat rallies, the public forums, the letters to the Minister ... you made this happen. It's not the end of super trawlers in Australia, but it's a really good start! Cheers, Tasmanian Greens MPs & staff.
According to the Brisbane Times, "The ship's local operator, Seafish Tasmania, said it would have to lay off 50 workers. The firm did not rule out legal action and said it had made no contingency plans for the vessel." The FV Margiris has been docked at Port Lincoln in South Australia since Aug. 30.
The trawler had intended to fish in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery which extends from south eastern Queensland south to Tasmania and then west along the South Australian coast and around to the south west of Western Australia. Conservation group Greenpeace, an opponent of the trawler for some time, has accused the FV Margiris of fishing their own waters to near collapse and that of other fisheries.
The environment group, who even tried to prevent the former Dutch ship from docking at Port Lincoln, called the decision to stop the vessel fishing in Australian waters, a "sensible response to the threat of the Abel Tasman."
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