ANDREW DARBY August 20, 2012
Legitimacy of the scientific motives being questioned ... the Margiris supertrawler. Photo: Greenpeace
A FEDERAL government attempt to calm Australia's influential recreational fishers over the super trawler Margiris is in disarray.
The fishers have quit a working group set up to toughen conditions on the ship. Instead, they want a ban on any industrial-scale fishing for the small pelagic species the Margiris is to target.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, had pointed to the anglers' involvement as meeting community concern about the largest ship to fish Australian waters. But the fishers' national delegate, Mark Nikolai, of the Tasmanian Association for Recreational Fishing, said yesterday they decided to pull out after a review of the science behind the trawler's quotas raised more questions than answers.
The 9600-tonne, Dutch-owned Margiris is being brought to Australia to trawl offshore between NSW and Western Australia for 19,000 tonnes of small pelagic fish. The venture is underpinned by a jack mackerel quota that the Australian Fisheries Management Authority controversially doubled to 10,000 tonnes.
Ms Gillard has defended the working group against the call from the independent MP Andrew Wilkie to delay approval for the Margiris until the Commonwealth Ombudsman completed inquiries into the quota decision.
Mr Nikolai said detailed discussions in the working group showed basic knowledge of the fishery was lacking.
''Recreational fishers call on [the Fisheries Minister, Joe] Ludwig to not allow industrial-scale fishing operations to occur in the small pelagic fishery and address the significant public concerns surrounding the risks of local area depletion on fish stocks,'' he said.
The exit of the recreational fishers leaves only government representatives to deal with Seafish Tasmania.
At a recreational fishing conference on the Gold Coast at the weekend, Senator Ludwig said he was ''a strong defender'' of the Fisheries Management Authority.