Seafish hooks into Burke

SEAFISH Tasmania has not given up hope of using its controversial super trawler in Australian waters, despite getting nowhere with its proposed compromises.

The company yesterday revealed it had launched a legal challenge to the 11th-hour ban on the Abel Tasman, formerly called the FV Margiris, from fishing in Australian waters.

Court documents show the company, now based in Queensland, will challenge the legality of the ``declaration'' made under new powers granted to federal Environment Minister Tony Burke under new laws rushed through Federal Parliament in September.

This week, Mr Burke announced he would also block plans to use the 143-metre-long vessel as a ``floating freezer''.

Seafish managing director Joe Pirello said Mr Burke was an ``appalling decision-maker''.

``He's not interested in the truth,'' Mr Pirello said.

The latest proposal would have allowed smaller commercial fishing boats to catch the 18,000-tonne quota of jack mackerel and redbait, and unload it on to the super trawler for freezing at sea in a process known as trans-shipment.

Mr Pirello said he understood an advisory committee to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority was poised to recommend its trans-shipment application be approved.

However, Mr Burke has intervened, arguing that even though the Abel Tasman would not be casting its own nets, the method of fishing posed similar environmental concerns.

Mr Pirello said trans-shipment was just one of many alternatives that Seafish had suggested as a compromise, such as redesigning the vessel or bringing out a smaller vessel, but received no response from Mr Burke.

Seafish is not suing the government for money over the failed venture even though bringing the vessel to Australia has cost millions of dollars.

``We're not after any handouts, we're fishermen and we just want to be able to fish,'' Mr Pirello said.

In the meantime, the Abel Tasman remains docked at Port Lincoln.

The case will be heard by the Federal Court in Queensland.

A directions hearing has been scheduled for March 15.

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