Chinese fishing boats, in harbor at Sanya on southern Hainan Island on May 16. China enacted a yearly moratorium on fishing in the South China Sea, but the temporary ban does not appear to cover Scarborough Shoal.
The federal government is planning to ban the super trawler, Abel Tasman, from fishing in Australian waters for two years under new laws proposed the last minute by Environment Minister Tony Burke.
He said current environmental laws lack legislation on size and haul potential of fishing vessels. Abel Tasman measures 142 metres and is licensed to catch 18,000 tonnes of mackerel and red bait fish with the use of 600-metre nets.
"There has never been a fishing vessel of this capacity in Australia before and the EPBC (Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation) Act needs to be updated so that it can deal with it," The Herald Sun quoted Mr Burke.
By comparison, the Queen Mary 2 ship measured 311 metres, the sunken Titanic was 269 metres and the Sydney Opera House is 185 metres.
The minister said that with the proposed amendment, it would allow the Fisheries Ministry to convene an expert panel that would assess the potential impact of the super trawler before it could be granted approval to fish in Commonwealth waters.
Recreational fisherman and environmental groups such as Greenpeace and GetUp! have protested the presence of the Abel Tasman, originally named Margiris.
Seafish Tasmania, owner of the super trawler, said it will continue to engage in fishing in spite of planned tougher regulations. The vessel is now docked in Port Lincoln, South Australia and its operator plans to resume fishing if Parliament fails to pass the proposed amendments quickly.
Seafish Tasmania Director Gerry Green said the planned amendment is a political ploy because the company had followed existing laws and is totally open and transparent about its intentions.
Due to the threat to its operations, Seafish Tasmania axed the 50 people it hired at Devonport to work on Abel Tasman.
"Our intentions were very well known and for a long time. To have the rug pulled at the very last minute after so much work and money has been spent on the project is incredibly disappointing," Mr Green was quoted by Brisbane Times.
"It shows that this government can and will change the rules after you've committed to a venture, putting at risk the investment, jobs and all the hard work of many people over many years. And then, when you've met all the new rules and requests, they can still shut you down," The Australian quoted Mr Green.
Eric Abetz, Opposition leader in the Senate, opined that Seafish Tasmania may be entitled to compensation because it followed all Commonwealth requirements.
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