Environmental activists sabotaged a fishing super-trawler as it prepared to leave the Netherlands for Australia, Greenpeace said yesterday, chaining its propellers and suspending themselves from the ship.
The Lithuanian-flagged FV Margiris, which is to be re-flagged as Australian and deployed to catch baitfish off the southern island state of Tasmania, was stopped by the Greenpeace team as it tried to leave the Dutch port of Ijmuiden.
“Activists put a chain around the ship’s propeller and two climbers are currently hanging on the cables between the ship and the quay, to prevent the ship from beginning its journey to Tasmania,” Greenpeace said.
The 143m, 9,500 tonne Margiris is one of the world’s largest fishing trawlers and has been accused by Greenpeace in the past of over-fishing off West Africa.
“Wherever this ship has gone it has destroyed fish stocks and ruined fishermen’s livelihoods,” Greenpeace Oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said in a statement.
Allowing the Margiris to operate in Australian waters after its history of “plundering oceans elsewhere” made a mockery of Australia’s recent environmental commitments, including huge new marine reserves, he said.
“The Margiris is bad news for Australia and globally irresponsible. Offering this vessel yet another fishing ground to plunder simply perpetuates an unsustainable fishing industry,” Pelle said.
Opponents of the trawler, which include conservation groups and local fishers, have expressed concern about depletion of southern fish stocks and impacts on sea-birds, seals and dolphins.
However, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has dismissed over-fishing concerns, saying the Margiris would have little if any impact on the broader eco-system, with strict catch limits in place.
According to AFMA, the trawler will be allowed to catch just 10 percent of available fish — a highly precautionary figure it says is well below international standards.
Independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie pressed Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the trawler in parliament this week, asking “what on earth” Australia was thinking welcoming the super-trawler into its waters.
Gillard said no formal application had yet been made for an operating license, adding that the vessel would have strict quotas, possibly being required to have independent observers and seal-detection equipment on board.
Australia unveiled plans earlier this month to create the world’s largest network of marine parks to protect ocean life — encompassing more than a third of its territorial waters — with limits placed on fishing and the offshore oil and gas industries.