The Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association has issued a statement regarding recent media coverage of their members

The Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association has issued a statement regarding recent media coverage of their members. Photo: Cornelis Vrolijk

The Pelagic Freezer-Trawlers Association (PFA) has issued a statement regarding recent news articles and campaigns where accusations have been made against their members. The statement reads:

In light of recent messages about the fishing activities of pelagic freezer trawlers, we want to reiterate the facts about pelagic fisheries and freezer trawlers.

Publications have appeared on various online media channels about the presence of PFA members’ freezer trawlers in EU waters, including in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Unfortunately, many of these messages present only one-sided points of view and omit important context.

It needs to be stressed that all our members’ vessels:

  • only fish in areas where this is legally allowed;
  • fish within the allocated quotas set by the European Union;
  • target only pelagic species, which constitute massive shoals of fish that swim in the water column, away from the seabed, allowing for the most selective fishing possible;
  • are for 70% made up of processing and freezing capacity, which is the only reason they are bigger than other pelagic vessels, that normally have a higher daily catching capacity.

We understand that some of the messages about supertrawlers can be confusing and raise questions about why our vessels are sometimes active in MPAs – geographically defined zones to protect, manage and enhance marine ecosystems. We would therefore like to assure you that all the fishing activities of PFA members’ freezer trawlers are fully legal and authorized by the EU and that pelagic trawling is allowed in these specific areas:

  • First of all, it is important to highlight that most of the MPAs are designated to protect seabed habitats.
  • Pelagic fish, such as herring, (horse) mackerel and blue whiting are known to migrate through the water column in huge homogeneous shoals. These species swim between the bottom and the surface of the water.
  • Our vessels fish for pelagic species in a very selective way, because of the high-tech sonar equipment onboard (resulting in our fishery having a 99% selectivity), and with nets that do not damage the seabed, as it is pulled through the water column. Pelagic fishing activities therefore have minimal impact on the marine ecosystems in MPAs.

The quantities of pelagic fish caught by our members are directly related to the size of the biomass of the pelagic species. It is an economic necessity to apply economies of scale due to the very large volumes of fish involved and tough international competition in the seafood market.

However, it is also important to highlight that all the fishing operations of PFA members are strictly within the allocated quotas set by the European Union to support responsible management of pelagic stocks. These quotas are based on the scientific recommendations from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) – the leading independent scientific body for fisheries.

Therefore, the size of our vessels does not mean that they have disproportionate catching power – as is sometimes claimed.
In fact, freezer trawlers of PFA members are larger than most other pelagic trawlers, because they are almost unique in their processing and freezing space onboard, which makes up around 70% of the vessel’s size. This onboard freezing, packaging and storage option helps to reduce the carbon footprint of the fishing operation.

We would like to emphasize that responsible fishing is essential for PFA members’ business strategy. Our members are committed to sustainably fishing for food in order to provide around 6 million healthy, high-quality and affordable meals a day with the lowest carbon footprint of all animal protein production. PFA members want to continue contributing to global food security. Not only now, but also in the future; so that future generations can continue to fish for human consumption.

Further to the statement above, The Fishing Daily asked the PFA questions regarding other areas of concern and received the answers below:

The Fishing Daily: Regarding the accusations of high-grading, where the larger more valuable fish is kept and the smaller fish is discarded. Can the PFA guarantee that no high-grading activity takes place onboard its members trawlers or anywhere else?

 PFA – Yes. We can guarantee that no high-grading activity takes place onboard our members’ vessels. We operate fully in-line with EU law, which includes provisions drawn up to make it technically impossible to discard fish already onboard.

The Fishing Daily –  How would your members feel about having independent monitors from European Fisheries Control Agency onboard their ships?

PFA – Pelagic fishing is actually one of the most tightly controlled fishing activities in the world. Because pelagic vessels are fewer in number than small-scale vessels, they are more easily monitored and better controlled. PFA members’ vessels are regularly inspected at sea by the fisheries control authorities of EU Member States. In other words, there is already very strict monitoring of our members’ vessels, with which we have no problem.

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