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One of the world’s largest trawlers is heading for Australia to scoop up thousands of tonnes of jack mackerel, blue mackerel and red bait in the waters between the Tasman Sea and Western Australia.
The Dutch super trawler FV Margiris is on its way.
Super trawlers are floating fish-processing factories and have severely depleted fish stocks in the oceans off Europe, West Africa and the South Pacific. Factory trawlers are capable of catching, processing and freezing 250,000 tonnes of fish annually. Off the coasts of West Africa local fishers are now forced to fish further away from their ports and for longer periods as a result of plummeting fish stock.
These local fishing communities cannot compete with factory vessels – it takes one year for fishers to catch the same volume of fish a super trawler processes in only one day.
To keep fishing, the operators of the super trawlers need to keep finding more fish. They have never fished in Australia so our oceans will be their next port of call if we don’t stop them.
Greenpeace activists briefly prevented the FV Margiris from leaving the Dutch port of Ijmuiden in Dakar, Senegal, but now it is expected to arrive in Devonport, Tasmania, in August.
Local fishing communities cannot compete with factory vessels – it takes one year for fishers to catch the same volume of fish a super trawler processes in only one day
The good news is that Seafish Tasmania, the company bringing the FV Margiris to Australia, must apply for permission to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to operate the super trawler in Australian waters. The vessel can be stopped by the authorities by rejecting its application.
The bad news is that the authority may be seriously considering granting FV Margiris access to our oceans.
Along with commercial and recreational fishers, ACF and other environment groups are appalled at the prospect of FV Margiris fishing in Australia waters because of the potential for overfishing and localised fish stock depletions – including the bycatch loss of seals, dolphins and albatrosses.
It is difficult to anticipate the full impact that concentrated and intensive trawling will have on predator fish that eat blue and jack mackerel and red bait such as marlin, tuna, kingfish and sharks, as well as on the marine mammals and seabirds that prey on them.
With a target harvest of 17,500 tonnes of fish annually, the vessel will see dramatically reduced fishing opportunities for local commercial and recreational fishers.
Allowing the FV Margiris into Australian waters would set a dangerous precedent, encouraging other super trawlers to apply for and likely gain access to Australian waters.The cumulative impacts on fish and other ocean life, and also the cumulative social and economic effects on coastal fishing communities, could be severe if the FV Margiris is allowed to fish here.
ACF is urging the federal government and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to ensure that super trawlers are never allowed access to Australia’s oceans.