How a 9500 tonne behemoth snuck up on the government
Apparently unlike everyone else, Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig was caught by surprise when the 142m Abel Tasman snuck up on him.
He looked around a day or so ago and, Bloody Hell, there’s a 9500 tonne fishing boat in Australian waters. And it wants to catch sea life. Who would have thought?
So instead of a considered official response, the owners of the Abel Tasman have been given a rushed, two-year rebuff because the Government was spooked by political agitation.
After weeks and arguable months of scuffling around the issue, the Government has harmed the good faith any company might expect in doing business with it. The moratoriums on the Abel Tasman’s operation until a review looks at “the entire fisheries management regime”.
Now there’s an open-ended inquiry.
Formerly called the Margiris, the monster trawler arrived here after years of forward billing by its owners. It was here to fish, and to fish in a way Australia had never witnessed before.
Greenpeace made sure everyone know it was here. The owners alerted all who might be interested. People who don’t even eat fish knew it was around waiting for official approval to start catching mackerel.
That approval seemed likely after the Australian Fisheries Management Authority gave a relatively benign assessment of the craft. But Fisheries Minister Ludwig seemed oblivious until today when he suddenly decided it would be handy to have a review of the Abel Tasman’s ability to do what its owners had been making no secret about - catching lots of fish.
Minister Ludwig had noted the building political and public apprehension over the boat’s huge proportions and potential catch and stomped into the issue. It was a clumsy and unconvincing intervention.
There might be solid reasons for the Abel Tasman to be sent back to the northern hemisphere without even a sardine in its nets. But that surely should have been worked out months ago.
To abruptly veto the boat - even if temporarily - is a declaration of administrative and political failure.
And coming from the minister who over-reached in response to the live cattle trade controversy with Indonesia, it seems to be at least the start of a pattern.
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