‘Shock’ as giant trawler dumps 100,000 dead fish off French coast
Dutch trawler FV Margiris, the world’s second largest fishing vessel, dumped more than 100,000 dead fish in the Atlantic Ocean off France, forming a floating carpet of carcasses that environmental activists have spotted.
French Fisheries Minister Annick Girardin said the footage was shocking and that there would be an investigation into the circumstances leading up to the incident.
EU Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius also said he was seeking “comprehensive information and evidence on the case”.
The spill, which happened early Thursday, was caused by a broken trawler net, said the fishing industry group Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association (PFA), which represents the owner of the vessel. In a statement, the group called the spill a “very rare occurrence”.
“In accordance with EU law, this was recorded in the ship’s logbook and reported to the authorities of the ship’s flag state, Lithuania,” he said. He added that dead fish would be subtracted from the vessel’s quota.
An environmental group disputed that account, saying it was an illegal dumping of more than 100,000 unwanted fish.
The French branch of campaign group Sea Shepherd has released images of the spill for the first time, showing the surface of the ocean covered in a 3,000m² (32,300 sq ft) blanket of blue whiting, a subspecies of cod, used to mass-produce fish sticks, fish oil and fishmeal.
Sea Shepherd France said it did not believe the incident was accidental, but rather an attempt by the trawler to discard a type of fish it did not want to process, a practice known as bycatch discarding which is prohibited by EU fishing rules.
Trawlers like the Margiris use dragnets over a kilometer long and process fish in onboard factories, a practice heavily criticized by environmentalists.
After protests by campaigners, the Margiris was forced out of Australian waters in 2012. The vessel had a quota to carry 18,000 tonnes of fish from the sea but was banned by the then Labor Environment Minister , Tony Burke, following a public outcry.
“In view of the images shared by @SeaShepherdFran, I asked the National Fisheries Monitoring Center to shed light on this subject in order to identify the causes of these important fish discards. Of course, these images are shocking” , wrote Annick Girardin following the revelation of the incident.
Traffic data from marinetraffic.com showed on Friday that the vessel, which is owned by Dutch company Parleviliet & Van der Plas and sails under the Lithuanian flag, was still engaged in fishing activities off the coast of France.