Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Interview, Natalie Barr, Channel 7 Sunrise: Super trawler

12 September 2012

NATALIE BARR: The Federal Government has taken steps to stop the controversial Dutch super trawler from fishing in Australian waters. The Environment Minister, Tony Burke has introduced a new bill that imposes a two year ban while scientists investigate what impact the trawler would have. It is a victory for environmentalists but the Government has been accused of ignoring its own scientific advice for the sake of politics. Environment Minister, Tony Burke joins me now. Good morning to you.

TONY BURKE: Good morning.

NATALIE BARR: Tony, last week and the week before that and the week before that you said, the science was sound on this, keep fishing. Why is the science not sound today?

TONY BURKE: Well, what I did a week ago was I went to the limits of what I could do under current law and what I've announced now is a step to be able to go a step further with the law with the extra checks that I wasn't legally able to do under current law.

So there have been a number of issues that have concerned me with this on the way through. The scientific information that is out there is good quality but there are gaps in it and the nature of this fishing vessel, it's not the size of the net or the size of the boat that's my principal concern, it's the fact that a vessel of this type can remain in the same area for an extended period of time. And that brings in new environmental issues that we haven't had to deal with before.

NATALIE BARR: Well, obviously the company is against it, but you've got scientists like a professor from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies saying, this quota of eighteen thousand tonnes is one of the most conservative in the world. There are fifty odd papers out there and anyone who says, there is no science behind it is talking complete nonsense. Is that you Tony?

TONY BURKE: Well, I'm not saying there's no science, I'm saying there are gaps in it and what he's referring to is the fish that you are trying to catch, that you are targeting and he is saying, that's conservative across the fishery. My concern is the species that you are not actually trying to catch, but end up getting caught up anyway. Be it your dolphins, be it your seals, be it your sea birds when the nets are being raised that get entangled as well.

Now, normally those issues with a trawling operation are very limited because the trawling operation is out in the ocean for a while and then back into port and then out to a different spot. This time we have got a vessel that can remain in the same place for a very long period of time because all the processing is done on board. That creates new concerns.

So I don't have a problem with the science that's done, I just don't think it's complete yet.

NATALIE BARR: It's retrospective isn't it? So is there a chance the Government may have to compensate the company?

TONY BURKE: Oh, the company is saying that they are checking their options on that. You have got to remember at the moment this vessel actually has no quota assigned to it. So the normal situation of them saying that they have got some right that was then taken away doesn't necessarily apply at the moment, but I will leave it to lawyers to argue that out. Our advice is we are on pretty strong ground here.

NATALIE BARR: What if they continue to fish? Could you do anything to actually stop them?

TONY BURKE: Well, at the moment they don't have a quota so they are not able to legally fish at the moment with that vessel. So hopefully we can get this legislation through the Parliament quickly. I still don't know what the Opposition is going to do. That will make a big difference as to whether or not we can get this through in a reasonable time.

NATALIE BARR: Okay, Tony Burke, thank you.

TONY BURKE: Good to be with you.