Super trawler can’t super fish

Super trawler Abel Tasman could suck schools of mackerel off Australian waters (Photo: Pierre Gleizes/Greenpeace)

MV Margiris, the giant fishing vessel measuring 146-metre long, has been banned from its grand mission to fish 18,000 tons of pelagic fish off Australian waters.

Even before it reached Australian shores, more than a dozen of Green groups have already sounded the alarm bell pushing the Federal Government to block the super trawler.

Baptising it with a new name, Abel Tasman, early this month did not help the super ship either to set its past records straight. Green groups alleged the humongous vessel to have plundered the seas off the Pacific and the coasts off West Africa, among other major international waters. The vessel, longer than the Sydney Harbour Brige, can dwarf and make local fishing boats look like toys– if allowed to sail on, they said. The ship is now docked at Port Lincoln in South Australia.

Abel Tasman could be the largest fishing vessel to sail on Australian waters. (Photo: News Corp)

The Parliament said Abel Tasman cannot go ahead with its mission– banning it for two years until a comprehensive scientific research and review of the Small Pelagic Fishery Agreement has been made. 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.

Australian-owned, Seafish Tasmania, entered a joint venture with the Dutch-owned MV Margiris for small pelagic fishing that would net schools of Blue Mackerel, Jack Mackerel and baitfish. The MV Margiris weighing 9,499 tonnes can process over 250 tonnes of fish a day and has a cargo capacity of 6,200 tonnes.

Seafish Tasmania Gerry Green said the venture was estimated to provide jobs to about 50 people, including 45 in Devonport, Tasmania. At least, 15 of whom are likely to be from overseas. “It is going to be hard to tell these employees, some of them who were long term unemployed, that we no longer have a job for them,” SBS noted.

But the Tasmanian Times unearthed some evidence claiming the “Dutch owned, EU subsidised, Margiris Trawler, offers “no advantage to Tasmania or for that matter Australia.” If there is one beneficiary, it would be Seafish Tasmania owner Gerry Geen, the online paper said.

Pelagic or mid-water trawling is the process of deploying and towing a net at a chosen depth in the water column to catch schooling fish such as herring and mackerel. This differs from “bottom” (benthic) trawling in which a net is dragged along the ocean bottom where fish such as cod, haddock, and flounders live.

The Government's zoning of Small Pelagic Fishery. (Photo: AFMA)

Small Pelagic Fishing zones by AFMA

The Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF), managed by the Australian Fishery Mangement Authority (AFMA), is a purse-seine mid-water trawl fishery extending from Southern Queensland to Southern Western Australia. The AFMA said there are currently 71 licenses and five active vessels operating targeting several species including Jack Mackerel, redbait, Blue Mackerel, and Australian Sardine (off NSW only). Yellow Tail scud is taken as by-product.

AFMA has adopted various harvest strategy such as input and output control including limited entry, zoning, mesh size restriction, and total allowable catch limits. They are said to be based on sound science and best marine management practices.

Supernet scoops tonnes of small fish. (Photo: Greenpeace)

However, Greenpeace oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said, “These ships literally vacuum up entire schools of fish”

Greenpeace, GetUp, Environment Tasmania, and the 14 other conservation and fishing groups galvanised a CommunityRun! to block the giant net off Australian waters

The Fishingworld website noted:

Greenpeace oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said the organisation had confronted the Margiris off the coast of Mauritania in March, for its role in what it says is overfishing in the North Sea and South Pacific ”to the point of plunder”.

The environmental group claims the industrial super-trawler is part of the European Association of pelagic freezer trawlers (PFA), responsible for “some of the worst fishing excesses on the planet.”

It said PFA vessels had been reponsible for jack mackerel stocks off Chile plummeting by 90 per cent.

“There has never been a trawler of this scale in Australian waters to my understanding before and that is a serious concern that we just don’t know what effect it will have on the food chain,” Greens MP Kim Booth said.

Reflagged Abel Tasman awaits fate at Port Lincoln. (Photo: Ivon Perrin)

The Sea Shepherd said,

If this super trawler is allowed to operate in Australia, it would mean huge impacts on the already critically endangered Southern Bluefin Tuna and albatross, and the tragic death of seals and dolphins through being trapped and drowned in this super trawler’s indiscriminate killing nets of death as “by-catch”.

If overfishing does not stop, the world’s fisheries will completely collapse by 2048. The reality is that the oceans that provide up to eighty percent of our oxygen are in deep trouble and allowing this super trawler to operate in Australia’s waters would be a further sealing of humanities fate.

Sea Shepherd are calling on all our supporters to please for our oceans sake and our children’s sake, please assist Sea Shepherd in stopping this super trawler.

And the drama on the super trawler continues.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent