Fourteen state and national organizations across Australia, including Greenpeace, have partnered to push back against the FV Margiris—a 465-foot fishing vessel encroaching a pristine Australian coastline and targeting vulnerable fish stocks.
It has a vacuum-like ability to catch and process fish in a maximum capacity—not unlike a floating factory farm.
The Margiris, part of a heavily subsidized European trawler fleet responsible for leaving behind a wake of dead fisheries from Europe to Africa and across the South Pacific, has raised concerns among marine conservationists, charter boat operators, and recreational fishermen who believe that welcoming giant fishing vessels sets a dangerous precedent that Australian waters and beyond are open to exploitive fishing.
One hundred forty two meters in length, the FV Margiris, dubbed by Greenpeace and Environment Tasmania as the ‘scary super trawler,’ is the second largest super trawler in the world. It has a vacuum-like ability to catch and process fish in a maximum capacity—not unlike a floating factory farm. Due to arrive in Tasmanian waters in August, the Margiris will net up to 18,000 tonnes of baitfish for export to Nigeria and parts of Asia for $1 per kilogram for human consumption. The vessel’s primary bait includes small jack mackerel, a species in a critical population state.
In addition, the vessel’s poorly regulated fishing capabilities do not discriminate against larger and often protected marine species like sharks, seals, dolphins, manatees and turtles that can become entangled in trawl nets and are later ejected from the vessel, dead or dying, as “waste products.”
Humans, too, suffer at the hands of trawl vessels like the Margiris. It destroyed important fish stocks in Europe, Africa, and the South Pacific during a recent brutal 18-month period. As a result, the Margiris and all other super trawlers were unanimously banned from operating in the waters off Senegal.
But no such preemptive action has been taken in Australia.
In July 2011, the Australian Government and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) confirmed it was processing the appropriate documents to “hurriedly” approve the controversial Margiris’ entry into Tasmanian waters.
Though AFMA claimed it would apply strict management regulations to the Margiris vessel (should it be granted full permission), conservationists and marine scientists believe the fisheries’ assurances are nothing more than national green washing; they believe the government has failed to propose viable management and regulation schemes and has consistently failed to apply current marine population data to the Magiris’ catch quotas, using only outdated data that, in reality, fails to reflect and safeguard more than five years of fish stock depletion.
But every cloud and fishing vessel has a silver lining.
According to Melbourne-based fisheries expert Malcolm John Moore, citizen- and community-run protest activism can and does influence government decisions, as was the case in Senegal, where, after community protests hit a political nerve, the Margiris was strictly banned.
Later, campaigners from global organizations in 2011 and 2012 confronted the Margiris as it pillaged waters in Mauritania. In early 2012, joint efforts from individuals and organizations obstructed the vessel as it fished in the Netherlands, significantly damaging quotas and calling on the attention of surrounding governments to investigate the vessel’s sustainability.
Further, lobbying and petitioning governing bodies to end subsidies and other financial assistance for destructive fishing vessels has the greatest impact on trawl fisheries, which otherwise cannot operate. Removing government and taxpayer money from these economic and business sectors halt the expansion of large commercial fishing operations and significantly obstruct their ability to operate—and all it takes is a signature.
Follow this link to virtually sign your name to Greenpeace’s collaborative No Supertrawler campaign and encourage the Australian Government and AFMA to set a precedent for the rest of the world, and to say: No supertrawler. Not here. Not anywhere.
Should ocean super trawlers like the FV Margiris be outlawed? Tell us in the comments.
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Elissa Sursara is an Australian environmental conservationist, filmmaker and wildlife expert working on behalf of endangered species, threatened habitats and animals in crisis. She is a celebrity ambassador for the WWF, Earth Hour and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. @ElissaSursara