Saturday 20 July 2019

World’s second largest super-trawler enters Irish waters

The MFV "Margiris", the world's second largest fishing trawler entered Irish waters
The MFV "Margiris", the world's second largest fishing trawler entered Irish waters

Ralph Riegel

IRISH fishermen have expressed alarm at the arrival of the world’s second largest super-trawler in Irish waters for the annual blue whiting campaign.

The ‘MFV Margiris’ drags a net bigger than a football field and, if stood on its end, would be almost twice as high as Ireland’s tallest building.

The super-trawler ceased operations off Australian after bitter protests by Government, fishing industry and conservation groups.

The vessel even changed its name to the ‘Abel Tasman’ in a bid to side-step protests off Australia and New Zealand.

But it ultimately quit Australian waters after being repeatedly targeted for protests by Greenpeace who feared its operations could devastate regional fish stocks.

The vessel – which is 143m long (429ft) and displaces 9,500 tonnes – is the second biggest trawler/factory shop afloat and her processing capacity is enormous.

Irish fishing industry and conservation groups warned about the potential impact of such vast fishing potential in vulnerable Atlantic areas.

They claimed the giant vessel shouldn’t have sufficient quota to justify operations in Irish waters.

Industry groups, led by ‘The Skipper’ editor Niall Duffy, have now demanded clarification of the super-trawler’s purpose off Ireland.

They have also demanded clarification by the EU as to how a super-trawler that was removed and reflagged in Australia could suddenly be registered back in the Lithuanian fleet.

The Sea Fish Protection Authority (SFPA) and the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) have both been asked to check on the super-trawler’s fishing entitlements.

The Naval Service is also monitoring the situation.

The super-trawler is owned by a Dutch consortium but is registered in Lithuania.

Under complex EU Common Fisheries agreements, the vessel can fish both inside and outside the 200 mile limit once quotas are in place.

Its crew of 50 normally conducts round-the-clock fishing operations in a region for six to eight weeks before landing its processed catch.

“This is a matter of concern for all Irish fishing industry groups given the difficult operating conditions currently facing Irish vessels,” Mr Duffy warned.

“We are concerned that a vessel this size does not have adequate quota to justify being here.”

The SFPA confirmed that the ‘MFV Margiris’ entered Irish waters and is now steaming towards an area off the west coast where it intends to operate close to the Norwegian fishing fleet as part of a fish quota exchange agreement.

“The Fisheries Monitoring Centre (FMC) contacted the Lithuanian FMC and sought a copy of the electronic logbook record from the vessel - the log extract provided showed that the vessel had no fish onboard,” the authority said.

“Prevailing sea conditions prevented intercept of the vessel by the Naval Service for boarding and the vessel has continued on passage.”

“The vessel is now heading toward the area outside the Irish 200 mile limit where the Norwegian fleet are currently active in the blue whiting fishery.”

“It was clarified that Lithuania has a quota for 120 tonnes of mackerel in this area and their authorities have provided a written confirmation that they have arranged a quota swap which affords them 5000 tonnes of blue whiting.”

Mr Duffy said it was “absolutely astonishing” that the super-trawler should get a swap deal which gives it almost one-third of the Irish blue whiting quota.

“About 40 Irish fishing vessels have a preliminary quota of 18,000 tonnes of blue whiting for the entire season. How on earth can one vessel from Lithuania obtain a quota for 5,000 tonnes which is almost one-third the entire Irish national quota,” he asked?

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