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The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has referred new failures in the Australian Fisheries Management Authority’s process in deciding the quota relevant to the super trawler Margiris to the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

The new concerns are revealed as the Ombudsman writes to Mr Wilkie to confirm an investigation into the ``administrative actions of AFMA in setting a Total Allowable Catch for the FV Margiris’’.

``As this factory ship heads towards Tasmania, the question mark over its fishing quota grows by the day,’’ Mr Wilkie said.

``In light of the mounting opposition to this super trawler, the Federal Government needs to suspend the registration of the Margiris until the Ombudsman determines whether the quota is in fact legal.’’

Mr Wilkie has unearthed new failures in AFMA’s process in deciding Seafish Tasmania’s fishing quota and referred them to the Ombudsman.

The latest concerns relate to the Small Pelagic Fishery Resource Assessment Group (SPFRAG) which advises AFMA.

Crucially some members of SPFRAG believe their views were misrepresented in advice to the South East Management Advisory Committee (SEMAC), which also advises AFMA and was central to Mr Wilkie’s original complaint to the Ombudsman.

``Two members of SPFRAG have formally complained to AFMA that their view that increasing the fishing quota for jack mackerel would be unsustainable was not communicated to SEMAC,’’ Mr Wilkie said.

``This follows AFMA admitting it does not follow its Act literally and a string of other failures in process.

``As it is the public can have no confidence in AFMA’s process in determining this fishing quota that has put out the welcome mat to one of the world’s biggest factory ships to fish Australian waters.’’

Mr Wilkie’s original complaint focussed on a teleconference of AFMA’s SEMAC on 26 March this year when a recommendation was finalised on the 2012/13 total allowable catch for the small pelagic fishery.

Seafish Tasmania’s Gerry Geen is a member of SEMAC and - of SPFRAG -  and it’s noted in the Chair’s Summary of the teleconference that Mr Geen declared a ``direct conflict of interest’’ in the setting of the fishing quota.

The Act required Mr Geen to absent himself from the meeting or for the committee to formally authorise him to remain.  Neither occurred in this instance, although it should be emphasised it is AFMA’s, and not Mr Geen’s, behaviour that is in question.

In response to a request from the Ombudsman, AFMA wrote to Mr Wilkie on 1 August and argued that a literal reading of the Fisheries Administration Act 1991 was impractical and instead that a ```standing arrangement’’ was followed in dealing with Mr Geen’s conflict of interest.

``This is most worrying because AFMA must read the Act literally and comply with it because to do otherwise would be unlawful,’’ Mr Wilkie said.

Download letters:

Letter_from_Ombudsman.pdf

Wilkie_to_Ombudsman_17_Aug_12_REDACTED.pdf

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STATE PARLIAMENT TO DEBATE SUPER TRAWLER

Paul ‘Basil’ O’Halloran MP
Greens Member for Braddon
Monday, 20 August 2012


The Tasmanian Greens will bring on a vote this week in State Parliament on the FV Margiris, giving Labor and Liberal MPs an opportunity to finally articulate a clear position for or against the super trawler.

Greens Member for Braddon Paul O’Halloran said Tasmanians would be watching the debate closely, and would be expecting all political representatives in the Parliament to stand up for Tasmania and its fish.

“The State Labor and Liberal parties have both shown a disturbing lack of interest and real commitment on this issue, no doubt hoping that it would be swept under the carpet and forgotten about,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“This issue is not going to go away, and with the Margiris due to arrive any day now, the pressure is on Labor and Liberal to respond to the community’s legitimate concerns over the sustainability of this operation.”

“The Greens are hoping that Labor and Liberal will use the debate to commit to position opposing the super trawler, but more importantly to take the fight up to their Federal counterparts.”

Mr O’Halloran said that reported promises by SeaFish Tasmania of a “move on provision” to prevent localised over fishing by the Margiris did little to allay concerns over the impacts of the super trawler on the Small Pelagic Fishery.

“Tasmanians were told months ago that a so-called ‘move on provision’ would be in place for the Margiris, and now we are being told that it’s optional,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“This just another example of the kind of spin that has been rolled out in an attempt to smooth the way for this super trawler’s arrival in Australia.”

“If this measure is optional, then there’s nothing stopping the company changing its mind once it’s out to sea and publicity starts to die down.”

“Tasmanians must continue their fight to defend our oceans and the basic right of future generations to catch fish for the family table,” Mr O’Halloran said.

First published: 2012-08-20 03:15 AM

MINISTER FAILS TO ADDRESS SUPER TRAWLER LOCALISED DEPLETION RISK
Parliament Has Opportunity to Vote Against Super Trawler Tomorrow

Kim Booth MP
Greens Primary Industries Spokesperson


The Tasmanian Greens today tabled a Motion which if successful would require the Speaker of the House to write to the Federal Minister, Senator Joe Ludwig, to advise him that the House of Assembly is opposed to the FV Margiris operation in Australian waters, and request his intervention to refuse the FV Margiris a license to operate.

Greens Primary Industries spokesperson Kim Booth also challenged the State Minister Bryan Green to provide any advice that would guarantee the super trawler would not risk local depletion of fish stocks, to address the serious concerns held by TARFish, the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation, Recfish, eNGOs Australia-wide, and other community stakeholders.

“The Tasmanian Greens will bring on for debate tomorrow our Motion calling on the House to reject in-principle the proposed super trawler operation by the FV Margiris to fish the small pelagic fishery,” Mr Booth said.

“This debate will allow all sides of the political parties in Tasmania to put on the record their position on this super trawler and will allow the Tasmanian public to see what their representatives’ value, and whether they are prepared to put action where so far there has only been words.”

“One of the areas that we will focus on will most definitely be the fact that the State Minister was unable to assure the House, in response to my question today, that the super trawler will not lead to localised depletion and a broken marine ecology.”

“Despite having more than six weeks to gather the necessary evidence and information, the Minister could not provide any information or evidence to the House that could give Tasmanians the confidence that this super trawler can operate sustainably, and without impacting on local fishing communities.”

“I presented Minister Greens with the recent statement from TARFish Tasmania which outlined concerns that there was still a lack of detailed scientific knowledge surrounding issues including the size of the resident population of Jack Mackerel on the East Cost of Tasmania despite having participated, in good faith, in the detailed discussions had through the working group established by the Federal Fisheries Minister.”

“I also asked Minister Green whether he was aware what it means for Tasmania’s fisheries given that there is a resident population of Jack Mackerel on the East Cost of Tasmania that this trawler could effectively decimate it in one or two fills of their enormous nets and so wipe out that population of fish.”

“Once again, the Minister was unable to adequately respond.  Either he hasn’t done his homework or he also harbours concerns that have not been allayed by his Federal counterpart.”

“Both the Tasmanian Greens and the Tasmanian Liberal parties have publicly voiced their respective opposition to this proposed super trawler, with the shared concern that the Federal Labor Minister, Senator Joe Ludwig, has failed to demonstrate that this commercial fishery activity will be sustainable and will not cause localised depletion off Tasmania.”

“Should the Greens’ motion be successful tomorrow, and given the lack of reassurance regarding the risk of local depletion we would expect the State Liberals’ support, it will require Federal Minister Ludwig to be officially informed that the Tasmanian House of Assembly does not support the FV Margiris operation and requests his intervention to prevent it.”

“This debate will provide both State Labor and Liberal parties to put aside their previous support for the super trawler and put first Tasmania’s interests over corporate, and stand together to provide tripartite support for the protection of our natural resources,” Mr Booth said.

The Greens’ motion will be debated during their Private Members Time tomorrow, Wednesday the 22nd August, with the debate commencing at 12 noon, and the vote occurring at 2:50pm.

Text of Greens’ motion tabled by Kim Booth MP:

That this House notes:


1. The growing community concern and disquiet over the potential arrival of the super trawler, FV Margiris, to operate in Australian waters to fish the small Pelagic fishery;

2. The serious unanswered questions regarding the potential impact of the increased quota of 18, 000 tonnes per annum on local fisheries;

3. The unacceptable silence from the federal authorities regarding the potential for local fish stock depletion, and the absence of any fisheries management plan associated with the planned FV Margiris operation to prevent local fish stock depletion;

4. That the Tasmanian local recreational and commercial fishing communities remain strongly opposed to the FV Margiris operation and have held large protest rallies around the state to stress their concerns;

5. Both the Tasmanian Greens and the Tasmanian Liberal parties have publicly voiced their respective opposition to this proposed super trawler, with the shared concern that the Federal Labor Minister, Senator Joe Ludwig, has failed to demonstrate that this commercial fishery activity will be sustainable and will not cause localised depletion off Tasmania;

6. Further that this House:
a) Rejects in-principle the proposed super trawler operation by the FV Margiris to fish the Small pelagic fishery;
b) Requests the Speaker of this House to write to the Federal Minister, Senator Joe Ludwig, to advice him that the Tasmanian House of Assembly is opposed to the FV Margiris operation in Australian waters and calls on Minister Ludwig to intervene and refuse to provide the FV Margiris with an operational licence.