SUPER trawler Abel Tasman has left its Australian port and may never return.
Seafish Tasmania, which brought the controversial vessel to Australia, has confirmed the ship will soon leave Australia.
This follows a decision by Environment Minister Tony Burke not to allow the ship to fish in Australian waters.
The Abel Tasman, formerly called the FV Margiris, was originally bound for Devonport but was rerouted to Port Lincoln in South Australia following a public outcry.
The owner of the port at Port Lincoln said yesterday the Abel Tasman was at sea, apparently for engine trials, and he did not know when it would return.
A Seafish Tasmania spokesman said he did not know if this meant the Abel Tasman had already left Australia.
He said he expected Seafish Tasmania director Gerry Geen to have more to say next week, and the ship could have left by then.
Mr Geen said earlier the Abel Tasman had been sold and was no longer registered as an Australian vessel, and would leave in the near future.
He said this was a lost opportunity to create jobs and political interference had prevailed over the science-based quota system.
``The ship has been forced into leaving because of the minister's refusal to even discuss operating options,'' Mr Geen said.
He said Seafish was taking legal action against the federal government following the decision to ban the Abel Tasman from fishing in Australian waters.
Mr Geen said Seafish would consider further legal action against Mr Burke and the federal government following the further decision to ban use of the ship for transhipment.
The 142-metre ship is the world's second-largest fishing vessel.
Seafish planned to catch a yearly quota of 18,000 tonnes of jack mackerel and redbait across the bottom of Australia.
After the initial fishing proposal was stopped, a new plan for the ship to be a floating freezer for the catch of smaller vessels was also stymied.