The bid to see the super trawler Abel Tasman operate in Australia is taking on more water after the Federal Government barred two large complementary commercial fishing vessels from operating in the Small Pelagic Fishery for two years.

The final declaration will prevent the Abel Tasman from operating as a freezing and storage ship for the two smaller vessels.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the decision had been made following extensive consultation, and will preclude vessels with a storage capacity of 1600 tonnes or greater from conducting mid-water trawl activities or operating as a ‘mother-ship’ that receives or processes fish or fish products in the area of the Small Pelagic Fishery.

“The government takes a highly cautious view when it comes to protecting the ocean. We take ocean protection seriously,” Mr Burke said.

“We have acted to protect our precious oceans by creating the world’s largest network of marine parks, stopping the super trawler and putting the Ningaloo Reef on the World Heritage List.

 “This final declaration made today confirms the exclusion of these commercial fishing activities while an independent expert panel undertakes a scientific assessment of their environmental impacts. I have worked closely with Minister Ludwig in making this decision.

“Decisions about commercial fishing activities must be underpinned by robust science.

“The next step is to establish an independent expert panel to conduct an assessment of the declared commercial fishing activities and report on the matter.”