Ombudsman investigating super trawler

THE political tide seems to be turning on the controversial approval to allow a "super trawler" to catch 19,000 tonnes of fish off Tasmania's coast, after the Commonwealth Ombudsman office confirmed it has launched an investigation into the approval.

The Ombudsman confirmed late on Monday night it was investigating an Australian Fisheries Management Authority approval for the FV Margiris to fish some 19,000 tonne of small pelagic fish around Tasmania.

While recreational fishers around the island state and local environmentalists have been the driving force behind protests against the approval, there have been concerns raised the approval may open the door to more super trawlers fishing other Australian waters.

And now the cause has been officially taken up by independent MP Andrew Wilkie, the Greens and even some Labor party MPs

After Mr Wilkie last week prompted the Ombudsman to investigate the quotas, five Labor backbenchers raised their concerns behind closed doors during a government caucus meeting on Tuesday.

It is understood the Labor MPs, who were not named in a caucus briefing, were also backed by Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese, who reportedly told the meeting about his own concerns about how the trawler could affect local fishing catches.

Questions were put to Mr Albanese, Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig and Environment Minister Tony Burke during the caucus meeting, but the frontbenchers made no firm commitment to the concerned backbenchers.

While the Ombudsman's investigation will not involve any parliamentarians' input directly, it signifies the issue is now resonating around the corridors of power in Canberra.

Acting Ombudsman Alison Larkins again cautioned that the investigation did not mean any government agency had acted inappropriately, and the investigation would be conducted "in private".



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