A Dutch fishing vessel, the world’s second largest fishing trawler, has dumped more than 100,000 dead fish in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of France, sending shockwaves across the country.
French Fisheries Minister Annick Girardin said the footage was shocking and there would be an investigation into whether the incident was deliberate.
The spill, which happened on Thursday morning, was caused by a tear in the trawler’s net, said the fishing industry group Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association (PFA), which represents the owner of the vessel.
In a statement, the group called the spill a “very rare occurrence”.
Environmental activists have often blamed these trawlers for using dragnets over a mile in length and processing fish in onboard factories.
The discarded fish were blue whiting, a subspecies of cod, which is used by industry to mass-produce fish sticks, fish oil and fishmeal.
The French branch of campaign group Sea Shepherd first released images of the spill, showing the ocean surface covered by a 3,000m².
Environmental activists who spotted the fish described it as a “floating carpet of carcasses”.
Sea Shepherd France, a non-profit marine conservation activism organization, said it did not believe the incident was accidental, The Guardian reported.
The organization claimed the trawler deliberately discarded the fish because it did not want to process it, a practice known as discarding bycatch which is banned under EU fishing rules.
(With agency contributions)