The blue whiting spill by FV Margiris is a ‘drop in the ocean’ in comparison to routine overfishing by Coastal States, says NAPA

Margiris owners, Atlantic High Sea Fishing Company has issue a statement defending the Bay of Biscay blue whiting incident on 03 February 2022

The Atlantic High Sea Company, owner of the FV Margiris and member of the Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association (PFA) has released a statement defending the incident in the Bay of Biscay on Thursday 03 February, where their vessel has been accused of deliberately dumping over 100,000 blue whiting.

Sea Shepherd, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) took video footage and photos of a carpet of dead fish floating on the surface, claiming that the 143 metre supertrawler, the second largest in the world, had deliberately dumped the blue whiting but the PFA released a statement later the same day claiming that the spill was caused by a ruptured cod-end and stating, “This is a very rare occurrence. In line with EU law, this has been recorded in the vessel’s logbook and reported to the authorities of the vessel’s flag state, Lithuania.”

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Not accepting this explanation, Sea Shepherd and other NGOs have persisted with the claim that the fish had been deliberately discarded due to upgrading practices.

The PFA has confirmed that a fish spill in the Bay of Biscay yesterday was the result of a burst cod-end from the FV Margiris

The PFA has confirmed that a fish spill in the Bay of Biscay on Monday 03 February was the result of a burst cod-end from the FV Margiris

This has led to the owners of the vessel issuing this statement:

The Atlantic High Sea Fishing Company, owner of the Margiris vessel, and a member of the Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association (PFA) would like to point out that the incident that took place on board the vessel off La Rochelle on 3 February was in no way related to the capture of unwanted fish, contrary to the accusations made. 

An amount of blue whiting – a quota species, particularly valuable for freezer-trawlers – was involuntarily released into the sea from the Margiris, due to a rupture in the cod-end part of its net. It was caused by the unexpectedly large volume of the fish caught. 

In line with EU law, the incident and the quantities lost have been recorded in the vessel’s logbook and reported to the authorities of the vessel’s flag state, Lithuania. 

The Atlantic High Sea Fishing Company is cooperating fully with the investigation opened for failure to comply with the “obligation to land caught species”. This obligation would require the fish to have been hauled aboard the vessel, which was never the case as it was unintentionally released during the hauling of the trawl. It should also be noted that pelagic trawlers use mid-water trawls and are not equipped to fish on the surface of the water. 

The Margiris was thoroughly checked by French authorities on 02 of February, the day before the incident. The inspection report concluded that the vessel was operating fully in-line with EU law, which includes provisions drawn up to make it technically impossible to discard fish already onboard.

The report also established that the only species onboard were blue whiting, AHSFC’s target species. Although being a very low-priced fish, blue whiting is of great value for AHSFC and all other PFA members as it is an integral part of the PFA members’ business strategy. Together, they provide on average 6 million affordable meals per day, of which 5.5 million contribute to food security in Africa.

The incident has had major consequences for AHSFC: 

  • The quantities lost have been recorded in the vessel’s log book and have been deducted from the vessel’s quota, which severely restricts its remaining available fishing volumes ;
  • It is also a loss of turnover because the lost fish were intended for sale;
  • This incident also had significant organisational consequences, again resulting in losses: immobilisation of the boat and the incapacity to fish while the trawl was being repaired, modification of the fishing plan.

The Atlantic High Sea Fishing Company is committed to full, open and transparent cooperation with all authorities involved. The PFA along with all its members support the AHSFC’s position and also stand ready to be of service to the authorities.

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Atlantic High Sea Fishing Company defends Margiris blue whiting incident

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