Now an ombudsman wades in

The fisheries management committee that cleared the way for the super trawler to come to Australia faces further investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman after it was found to have breached guidelines for the approval process.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority breached a section of the Fisheries Act when it allowed the Australian operator of the super trawler - the director of Seafish Tasmania, Gerry Green - to participate in meetings relating to the quota of fish that could be taken by the trawler.

''No less than the Commonwealth Ombudsman has agreed AFMA has acted unlawfully and this should rule a line under the whole sorry super trawler saga and compel the Senate to kill the project forever [on] Monday ,'' the Tasmanian independent MP, Andrew Wilkie, said.

The ombudsman will now investigate other matters that emerged during its examination of complaints made by Mr Wilkie on behalf of environment groups and recreational fishers over the past two months.

The senior assistant ombudsman, Rodney Welsh, informed Mr Wilkie of his findings on Friday.

Mr Wilkie said the ombudsman's decision to continue its investigation demonstrated the authority was ''in serious need of reform''.

''Super trawlers stink but even worse is government agencies thinking they're above the law,'' Mr Wilkie said.

The Abel Tasman - formerly the Margiris - has effectively been banned from operating in Australian waters for two years, while further scientific work is done to determine its environmental impact, under legislation passed by the House of Representatives last week.

The government has warned the ban will not take effect until the legislation has passed the Senate. This means the super trawler could operate before this happens because it has already been approved by state and federal regulators.

''The Parliament has sent a very clear message and the operators of the vessel should hear that message loud and clear and respect it,'' the Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke, said.

A spokesman for Seafish Tasmania did not return calls yesterday.

Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson said although the party was concerned with the one-year sunset clause on the ban, it also wanted to see the legislation passed by the Senate this week before Parliament rises for a fortnight break.

''We'd like to see it passed as soon as possible but we do need to see how we can improve it,'' Senator Whish-Wilson said.

The Victorian government will announce today it will introduce legislation to ban super trawlers in Victorian waters.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, did not return calls.

The story Now an ombudsman wades in first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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