Greenpeace sabotages super-trawler headed for Tasmania
As problematic as Greenpeace can be sometimes, I have to say I love what its activists do.
Just today, the environmental group successfully interfered with a super-trawler leaving from the Netherlands for Australia. Activist climbers and divers sabotaged the 140-meter-long FV Margiris in the Dutch port of Ijmuiden by placing a chain around the ship’s propeller and establishing themselves on the cables between the ship and the quay.
The Lithuanian-flagged FV Margiris, one of the world’s largest fishing trawlers, will be re-flagged as Australian and sent off to catch more than 17,000 tonnes of baitfish off the southern island state of Tasmania. The ship’s operators are waiting to receive government approval to leave for Devonport.
“Wherever this ship has gone it has destroyed fish stocks and ruined fishermen’s livelihoods,” Greenpeace oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle argued. “Along with a broad cross-section of the community that has declared the Margiris unwelcome, we will be ramping up efforts to stop it doing the same in Australian waters.”
Pelle said that given its history of “plundering oceans elsewhere,” allowing the Margiris to fish in Australian waters represents a mockery of the country’s recent environmental commitments, including its immense network of new marine reserves. Just two weeks ago, Environment Minister Tony Burke announced that Australia will soon have the world’s largest network of marine parks, consisting of five main zones surrounding each of the country’s states and territories, including extending reef protection in the Coral Sea, although it does not ban all commercial fishing there. It would expand the number of protected areas from 27 to 60 and span 3.1 million square kilometers — one-third of Australia’s waters.
“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,” he stated.
In Tasmania, a petition against the ship’s imminent arrival has attracted thousands of signatures, including those of celebrities such as singer Guy Sebastian and surfer Kelly Slater. Moreover, Australia’s Green Party wants the vessel banned and Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie earlier this week encouraged Prime Minister Julia Gillard to do the same.
Unfortunately, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has dismissed concerns about the super-trawler, saying it would have little if any impact on the broader ecosystem in light of the strict catch limits already in place. AFMA also noted that the trawler will be allowed to catch only 10 per cent of available fish, a figure it calls highly precautionary figure because it falls well below international standards.
Seafish Tasmania assured that on-board observers will make sure it complies with the rules. I’m sure we can trust a corporation that makes its money off fishing when it tells us that it will abide by the rules and that its gigantic ship will not cause harm to the ecosystem, right?
Seafish Director Gerry Geen said the AFMA-set quota was estimated to be 5 per cent of the total Australian fishery for baitfish.
“It’s not the size of the boat that matters, it’s the size of the quota,” Geen commented. “The normal process is under way now for Margiris to be registered as an Australian vessel.”
He said his company plans to start fishing in August.
I hope Greenpeace wins this one.