Environment and Fisheries Ministers, Tony Bourke announced yesterday that the huge fishing super trawler, the Abel Tasman (a.k.a the FV Margiris), will be banned from Australian waters for two years.

Minister Tony Burke will introduce legislation that bans super trawlers for up to two years, to allow his office to conduct scientific research before approving or blocking such fishing in our waters in future. Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig also announced a review of the 20 year old fisheries management legislation, in light of concerns about super trawlers devastating fish stocks.

Since this announcement Sea Fish, the operator of the Abel Tasman and the federal opposition have claimed that the decision will result in huge job losses. We think this is somewhat disingenuous, prior to late last week Sea Fish had not returned our calls and had shown no interest in a collective agreement. Late last week, it transpired that the vessel would be required to carry a Master and Chief Engineer with an AMSA Class 1 Certificate of Competency, Sea Fish then contacted us to assist with supplying the labour. However the job was only for approximately 1 month, by which time, we presume the Croatian Master would have received a certificate of recognition from AMSA.

The so called huge loss of jobs, are the 50 Croatian that are currently onboard the vessel; one presumes that they have not lost their jobs as a result of Minister Bourke's decision as they will continue to  fish in international waters.

In addition to the environmental concerns that super trawlers raise, we will also be asking the government to consider conducting a review of the industrial instruments that should also apply to super trawlers as we were continuously advised by Sea Fish that their workers [technically sub-contractors] do not work for wages but for a percentage of the catch. But they were prepared to pay wages for the one month to our Member with the AMSA certificate to enable them to operate in Australia. This raises an interesting scenario, if an average trawler provides an average return of $2000 per week, does a "contractor" on a super trawler return $50,000 for the week. As the jobs or contracts were not for Australian's, it also raises some interesting 457 visa issues, namely what is the applicable "market salary rate" that would apply to these overseas workers on 457 visa's.

It is extraordinary that the Liberal party is concerned about the welfare of the Croatian workers. Perhaps they will be advocating next that the vessel while working in international waters should be paying their workers the minimum rates as per the International Transport Federation Agreement.