Legal action could follow two year ban on super trawler

Abel Tasman
Super trawler operator Seafish Tasmania says it is considering possible legal action in response to the federal government's two-year ban on Abel Tasman, formerly FV Margiris.

A ban on commercial fishing in Australian waters by the super trawler will be extended for two years while the environmental impacts are assessed. Announcing the decision, Environment Minister Tony Burke said the extension would take effect from midnight 19 November.

Seafish director Gerry Geen has pleaded for 'a fair go' after the Minister exercised new powers and stopped the giant factory ship trawling Australian waters while the potential impacts are assessed.

Seafish plans to consult with its Dutch joint venture partner, Parlevliet & Van der Plas over the 142m vessel, now stranded at Port Lincoln and costing its backers tens of thousands of dollars a day.

'All options will be on the table,' Mr Geen said in a statement, describing the government's decision as 'a raw deal' for the company.

'We followed all AFMA's (Australian Fisheries Management Authority's) rules and regulations and were given the green light ... but then at the last minute the Australian government pulled the rug.'

Mr Burke conceded a court battle could result from his announcement, made 60 days after legislation was tabled to increase his ministerial powers.

'The company have made clear, (in) public and personally, that if they thought they needed to they would pursue all legal options available to them,' Mr Burke told reporters last week. But he said the government was on 'completely strong legal ground' to counter any compensation claims or legal challenges.

Seafish Tasmania had attempted to appease the government by offering to use less than half the factory ship's freezing capacity and to move on from fishing areas once a certain tonnage was caught.

Mr Burke said his department remained dissatisfied with the 'genuine uncertainty' around the vessel.

Mr Geen said he had received little response to his company's offer of concessions. 'All we want is a fair go,' he said.