Seafish in clear on quota process

THE Tasmanian company that brought the outlawed super trawler to Australia has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the process used to set its fishing quota by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

However, the Ombudsman did find the Australian Fisheries Management Authority did not follow proper process in allowing Seafish Tasmania director Gerry Geen to take part in the discussion about the total allowable catch for the small pelagic fishery.

Mr Geen is a member of two committees that advise AFMA on setting fishing quotas and despite declaring his conflict of interest, was not asked to leave the meetings. AFMA has already agreed to take action to remedy its administrative processes.

The Ombudsman also noted the administrative errors did not mean the quota was invalid.

However, Denison independent MHR Andrew Wilkie, who complained to the Ombudsman, maintained the quota "was not worth the paper it's written on" because of the clear conflict of interest exposed.

"I certainly will not apologise to Seafish Tasmania, the Ombudsman has chosen his words very carefully," Mr Wilkie said.

Yesterday, Seafish issued a press release slamming the Ombudsman and Mr Wilkie for failing to release the results of its investigation earlier.

"There was no comment on anything to do with me or Seafish, and as far as the Ombudsman is concerned the matter is over," Mr Geen said.

"If that is correct, as I am certain is the case, then the whole investigation is nothing but a political beat-up by Mr Wilkie."

Two hours later Mr Wilkie released the Ombudsman's letter, dated December 18. He said he had always planned to release it yesterday rather than "bury" it in the slow news period over Christmas.

Mr Geen refused to reveal any more about the company's future.

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