Super trawler docks despite protests

30 Aug, 2012 11:39 AM
The Dutch super trawler Margiris docked in Port Lincoln today, greeted by much protest.
The Dutch super trawler Margiris docked in Port Lincoln today, greeted by much protest.

THE controversial super trawler Margiris has docked at Port Lincoln in South Australia despite attempts by Greenpeace to prevent the ship's arrival.

Activists had chained themselves to pylons on the wharf forcing the ship to reverse. Another six activists on an inflatable boat failed to board the Dutch ship earlier this morning as it was escorted by two tug boats to its first Australian port to refuel.

Security remained tight at the dock as a crowd of people gathered to watch the trawler's arrival.

The Dutch-owned giant trawler is en route to Tasmania, having been approved to haul 18,000 tonnes of small surface-dwelling fish from Australian waters each year, a decision that has angered conservation groups and recreational fishers.

The ship is the largest trawler ever to fish Australian waters, and is being brought to Australia by Seafish Tasmania to fish offshore between NSW and Western Australia.

While some commercial fishers welcome the giant trawler, saying it will be a boost to the industry, its opponents fear the operation will plunder populations of the target species, redbait and mackerel, and capture large numbers of other species in its nets.

The chief executive of Greenpeace, David Ritter, said giant trawlers had a terrible track record for pillaging fish stocks in other parts of the world.

"The jack mackerel stock in the Pacific - which they said was impossible to collapse - fell apart under pressure," he said.

At the centre of the fracas is the trawler's jack mackerel quota, set by the federal government's Australian Fisheries Management Authority, which was doubled to 10,000 tonnes this year.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman launched an inquiry into the authority's quota-setting process last week.

Yesterday, the Herald revealed the director of Seafish Tasmania, Gerry Geen, had been present at the authority's early advisory meetings, that were tasked with setting the quota, before joining other members of the group to support the proposal.

The quota is based on egg surveys, which are used to estimate the size of spawning stocks, carried out by the scientists at two fisheries research institutes.

AFMA's website says the jack mackerel quota was doubled based on research conducted in 2002-04, and published last year, which found the species spawned greater numbers than previously thought.

But the chief executive of Tasmanian Association for Recreational Fishing, Mark Nikolai, said there was insufficient data on the species movements, stock numbers for local populations or the species ability to replenish its stocks when fished. To appease community opposition to the Margiris, the Fisheries Minister, Joe Ludwig, formed a working group to examine licence conditions for the ship, but talks failed when the recreational fishers left the group unsatisfied by the scientific advice given to it.

The federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, is also seeking advice about whether he has the power to prevent or restrict the vessel under environmental law.

To fish in Commonwealth waters, the trawler must be re-registered as Australian before it can begin netting fish.



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