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Tony Burke announces new powers for the Environment Minister

Tony Burke announces new powers for the Environment Minister

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Published by Latika M Bourke

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Published by: Latika M Bourke on Sep 11, 2012
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09/11/2012

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The Hon. Tony Burke MPMinister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities11 September 2012Gillard Labor Government Acts to Stop Super TrawlerEnvironment Minister, Tony Burke, has announced plans to legislate to extend hislegal powers over the super trawler FV Abel Tasman, (formerly FV Margiris), toprevent the vessel fishing in Australian waters.“If we get this wrong there are risks to the environment, to commercial operatorsand to everyone who loves fishing and they are risks I am not prepared to take,” Mr Burke said.“There has never been a fishing vessel of this capacity in Australia before and the EPBC Act needs to be updated so that it can deal with it.”The 142m super trawler is currently docked at Port Lincoln in South Australia.Mr Burke acted after first raising concerns over the potential for harmful by-catch of dolphins, seals, seabirds and threatened or protected species.“Last week I used all the powers available to me under the EPBC Act, (Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act), to ensure that all legal stepsare being taken by the super trawler to limit its impact on any listed species,but I want to do more,” Mr Burke said.“There is a lot of uncertainty in the community about the environmental, social and economic impacts of a fishing vessel of this size.“At the moment there are no general powers in the EPBC Act to prevent new fishingvessels like the FV Abel Tasman from fishing while further scientific assessments are undertaken.“I have been lobbied for some time on this issue by a large number of Labor MP’s.“It was my view that legislative change should not be pursued until we knew how far I could go under current law.“Once it was clear that my legal powers under the EPBC Act were constrained I commenced working with my department on these changes.“That is why I directed that urgent legislation be drafted to amend the EPBC Act to stop the FV Abel Tasman,” he said.The amendment will prohibit the super trawler engaging in a declared fishing activity in Commonwealth waters while a further assessment is undertaken by an expert panel that will report directly to the Minister.“If the amendment I am proposing is passed by the parliament I will be able to work with the Fisheries Minister to set up an expert panel to conduct an assessmentof all of the potential impacts of the FV Abel Tasman before it can be given approval to fish in Commonwealth waters.“Until this expert panel has reported to the parliament on their assessment, the declared fishing activity will be prohibited.

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