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Super Trawler For Australia: An EU-African Problem Moves South …

  • August 24th, 2012
  • Posted by EUEditor

margiris-greenpeace.jpgDeployment of a super trawler FV Margiris to operate in Australian waters has generated a debate over the use of such ships world-wide.

The vessel, registered in Lithuania, has been involved in heavy-duty fishing off the West African coast, a trade already causing difficulty for European regulators and angering environmentalists.

The Australian fishing company Seafish Tasmania has contracted to use the vessel, a factory ship, to take out an 18000 tonne quota for small fish, Jack Mackerel and Redbait – destined for markets in Western Africa.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority which issued the quota directed that to reduce stress, it be taken from two fisheries, North and South.

The Greenpeace organisation has led objections to the ship’s deployment from the conservation movement, arguing that there is insufficient scientific data available to justify it, and that its intense capacity has already contributed to a major decline in Atlantic fisheries.

Seafish Tasmania:

  • Has argued that it is following a sound commercial plan, to get its quota through a ship that can stay off-shore and freeze the catch on board – as opposed to using five smaller boats that need to return to port more often.
  • It has obtained support from members of the scientific community for claims that existing knowledge of the fisheries provides a sufficient basis for the quota.
  • It says also, having the Margiris under the rigorous Australian system of marine protection is bound to be better than sending it to areas where regulation, and government itself is weak.

(See recent Australian initiatives, EUAustralia Online, “World-scale protection of the seas off Australia”, 15.6.12).

  • As well, it argues that larger-capacity ships which can stay longer at sea are better able to follow the fish as they move from region to region, avoiding the diseconomy of down-time in operations.

None of that appeals to Green Party parliamentarians who have taken up the case, and the independent federal member from Tasmania, Andrew Wilkie, who has succeeded in getting an investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

That inquiry, to probe justifications for the use of the super trawler, may delay the fishing operation, which was expected to begin with the arrival of the ship next week.

It will also need licensing to be able to take up the fishing quota.

FV Margiris is big, at 142 metres in length, displacing 9499 tonnes; in the class of “floating factories” in the European fleet, targeted in a series of campaigns; see EUAustralia Online, “Alarm over fish stocks”, 30.4.11.

The argument against such ships is that their economic efficiency is a threat to sustainable fishing in the longer term, in that they make up 20% of the fleet but take over 80% of the catches.

Small fishermen operating close inshore in regions including West Africa have been recording smaller catches, and smaller fish, where the super trawlers pass through.

The European Union has accelerated its efforts to ease the pressure on fisheries, through regulation of its own fleet.

It is relying on a new system of trading in quotas, which it has linked to reducing the devastation of non-quota species brought up with the permitted catch.

Its Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki says that in some areas as much as 60% of the catch is being thrown back.

See also  EUAustralia Online, “Contests shaping up to save the whales and fishes”, 15.7.11.


Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra, home., (24.8.12).

Picture   Greenpeace