Sea Shepherd claims that press releases by the PFA and the AHSFC over the Margiris blue whiting incident are nothing more than a cover-up
)The marine non-governmental organisation, Sea Shepherd is claiming that press releases by the Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association and the Atlantic High Sea Fishing Company over an incident involving the supertrawler Margiris in the Bay of Biscay on 03 February 2022 as nothing more than an attempted cover-up.
Sea Shepherd, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) took video footage and photos of a carpet of dead fish floating on the surface of the Bay of Biscay (known to the French as the Gulf of Gascogne. The NGO claimed the 143 metre supertrawler, the second largest in the world, had deliberately dumped the blue whiting in a high-grading exercise.
Later the same day the Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association (PFA) released a statement later 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.”
On 09 February, owners of the Margiris, Atlantic High Sea Fishing Company, also issued a press release reacting to the claim from Sea Shepherd denying any wrong doing saying, “the incident that took place on board the vessel off La Rochelle on 03 February was in no way related to the capture of unwanted fish, contrary to the accusations made.”
In a further statement on the incident, Sea Shepherd claims that the claim by the PFA and the AHSFC leaves a puzzle.
“Following the release of our images illustrating the rejection of tens of thousands of fish caught by the Margiris in the Gulf of Gascogne, the PFA (Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association), the ship’s company (Atlantic High Sea Fishing Company) released a press release on February 9. He tries to explain what he calls a fishing “incident”. Arguments raised to justify the accidental character of rejection leave a puzzle.
“Indeed, AHSFC explains that the recovered blue whiting came from a break in the cod-end due to too high fish.
“However, if they are able to measure the amount of fish in the net, why didn’t they stop fishing since the net was at capacity?
“AHSFC also says they have declared the incident to Lithuanian authorities because the ship is registered in that country. According to the elements at our disposal, Margiris has not contacted the National de Surveillance des Pêches (CNSP) which has authority since Margiris was in the French ZEE. On the contrary, it was the CNSP who contacted Margiris.
“The AHSFC also defends itself for wanting to do high grading, illegal practice but yet common which consists of rejecting low merchant fish to keep room in their dives for higher value cash.
“If indeed, according to the inspection of the French authorities, Margiris does not have the technical possibility of rejecting fish once it is on board nothing prevents it from opening the net as long as it is in the water.
“In 2019 Sea Shepherd had observed and filmed thousands of dead fish abandoned in the sheath of Annie Hillina, another ship from the Parlevliet & Van der Plas group, still in the Gulf of Gascogne, in French ZEE.
“AHSFC and the PFA brag in their communication of providing 5.5 million low-cost meals a day for Africa. However, these same Africans would probably not have a need for “cheap” fish fished in Europe if their territorial waters weren’t caught by these same boats.
“AHSFC says the amount lost has been deducted from their quota, but they have not made this amount public. Maybe our estimate of 100,000 fish would be well below the actual number of fish lost as some fishermen suggest.
“Finally, the company announces that he has suffered losses in operation due to the time wasted to repair the damaged net.
“First of all, ships like the Margiris have two nets on board, as our images show. So they can keep fishing if either one is damaged. Secondly, according to the positions of the ship, it is seen that the Margiris started fishing only 4 hours after declaring the incident and after being repositioned about fifteen miles from the scene.
“Sea Shepherd filed a complaint against the Margiris to the maritime gendarmerie and collaborated with the Dutch authorities interested in the case so that all light is shed on the event. Whatever the investigation concluded, this sad episode highlights the urgent need for better fishing monitoring.”
The European Union and France have launched an investigation into the incident.