IT'S almost as long as the MCG is wide.
It's the second largest of just a handful that exist in the world.
It's a super-trawler, a giant fishing vessel measuring 143 metres long, with a net 600 metres long and a capacity of 9500 tonnes.
The FV Margiris has courted controversy the world over for its role in fishing off the coast of Europe and West Africa - and now Triabunna-based SeaFish Tasmania is bringing the vessel to Devonport, in a joint venture with its Lithuanian owners.
Its modus operandi is to chase the baitfish mackerel down the Eastern seaboard of Australia in Commonwealth waters, from Queensland down to Tasmania and across to Western Australia, with a total allowable catch of 18,000 tonnes a year.
The vessel freezes its catch on-board, which means it can stay at sea for six to eight weeks at a time.
The frozen blocks will then be cold stored in Devonport, and shipped out to market in West Africa and Asia.
The move is causing uproar among environmental groups as well as commercial and recreational fishers - not just in Tasmania, but interstate.
Environmental concerns include the sustainability of fish stocks, marine food chains, accidental bycatch of seabirds and mammals such as seals and dolphins, and the availability of current scientific evidence to support catch quota.
Greenpeace oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said the organisation had confronted the Margiris off the coast of Mauritania in March, for its role in what it says is overfishing in the North Sea and South Pacific ``to the point of plunder''.
The Tasmanian Conservation Trust has written to Federal Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig requesting that AFMA does not grant the Margiris approval to operate unless it can guarantee:
Adequate assessment of fish stocks.
An observer aboard the vessel at all times to ensure it is not exceeding quota and that the right species are being caught.
A process to prevent localised overfishing.
TCT spokesman Jon Bryan said:``Our main concern is that this ship will come into Australian waters without adequate safeguards.
``These big factory freezer ships have devastated fisheries in other parts of the world.
``There is no strategy to prevent localised overfishing.''
AFMA's chief executive James Findlay said Mr Ludwig had received the letter and was considering the issues raised.
SeaFish director Gerry Geen said a seal and dolphin excluder device would be attached to the net.
The device is an inclined grid that leads them to an escape hatch on the upper panel of the net.
Mr Geen said a seabird management plan would also be developed with AFMA to keep birds away from the trawl wires.
Because the fish were frozen whole aboard, there was no offal discharge to attract the birds, he said.
Opposition fisheries spokesman Rene Hidding called on the state government to ensure the Margiris used best practice.
``There's always a cause and effect, but the Commonwealth has a laborious scientific process and has worked out the quota, which is a very small percentage of what is actually out there,'' he said.
``These vessels do attract controversy, which ought not to be over-emphasised.''
Mr Geen said he was comfortable with the scientific data available on fish stocks in Commonwealth waters to support a vessel the size of the Margiris.
``We also support the continual updating of that scientific information,'' he said.
``To that end, an AFMA-controlled egg survey will be conducted in October.''
Dr Findlay said the latest study was released last year, and based on research conducted in 2002-04.
The total allowable catch for each species in each zone of the fishery is set each year by the AFMA, according to its small pelagic fishery harvest policy.
Mr Geen said the SeaFish quota was less than 5 per cent of the stock size.
MR GEEN said he was unsurprised by the reaction to the vessel, which is being fitted out in Holland and reflagged as an Australian vessel before its arrival.
``It's completely to be expected that there is concern about a large fishing boat,'' he said.
He said he was not concerned ``whatsoever'' by media reports of the vessel's record overseas, because the vessel's operation in Australia would be strictly managed and quota-controlled.
But its arrival is not yet a fait accompli.
While Mr Geen said he hoped the vessel would be operating within two to three months, it does not yet have a licence to do so.
Dr Findlay said the Margiris had not yet applied for its licence, because it was not yet considered an Australian vessel.
``To become an Australian boat, a number of complex legal steps must be taken by the applicant prior to an application being made,'' he said.
``AFMA has not received an application to deem this boat as Australian.''
The vessel requires a crew of 46, around 40 of which could be recruited from Tasmania, Mr Geen said.
The Maritime Union of Australia said the move would help keep Tasmania's seafaring industry ``alive and well''.
Deputy MUA Tasmanian branch secretary Ian Hill said the MUA would meet with SeaFish Tasmania to discuss potential employment.
State fisheries minister Bryan Green last week warned the furore could see the vessel based elsewhere.
``People are starting to demonise this vessel already, when really there's no change to quotas, they can't trawl within Tasmanian waters and in the end, will produce some employment hopefully in Tasmania,'' he said.
``The fact that it would be providored in Devonport would be good for the local economy.''
Mr Geen said the boat would return to Devonport five or six times a year for supplies, as well as using local cold storage.
The company is also negotiating with Devonport disability services provider Devonfield Enterprises to build 500 bespoke pallets for the vessel's catch.
However, Braddon Greens MHA Paul O'Halloran described the Margiris as a voracious predator, and likened its operation to a ``clearfelling of the ocean''.
He said any new jobs created aboard the vessel could simply replace jobs with local commercial operators.
The Tasmanian Association for Recreational Fishing, or TARFish, is the peak governing body for the state's sport fishers.
Chief executive Mark Nikolai said the group's main concern was about local area depletion of mackerel stocks, by allowing the vessel to sit in one spot to attain its quota, rather than being required to disperse its fishing efforts.
Mr Geen will address a TARFish board meeting in Hobart on Wednesday.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.