Super trawler dumps over 100,000 dead fish in the Atlantic Ocean

By Tassilo Hummel

PARIS, (Reuters) – The Dutch trawler FV Margiris, the world’s second largest fishing vessel, dumped more than 100,000 dead fish in the Atlantic Ocean off France, forming a floating carpet of carcasses that activists environmentalists have spotted.

The spill, which happened early Thursday, was caused by a broken net from the trawler, said fishing industry group PFA, which represents the owner of the vessel. In a statement, the group called the spill a “very rare event”. An environmental group disputed that account, saying it was an illegal dumping of more than 100,000 unwanted fish.

The French branch of campaign group Sea Shepherd first released footage of the spill, showing the ocean surface covered in a dense layer of blue whiting, a subspecies of cod, used to mass-produce fish sticks of fish, oil and fishmeal.

Sea Shepherd France said it did not believe the incident was accidental, but rather an attempt by the trawler to discard a type of fish it did not want to process, a practice known as bycatch discarding which is prohibited by EU fishing rules.

Lamya Essemlali, head of the campaign group in France, told Reuters she believed the fish had been deliberately discarded. Sea Shepherd France said the spill affected more than 100,000 fish.

France’s Maritime Minister Annick Girardin called the footage of the dead fish “shocking” and said she had asked the country’s national fisheries watchdog to open an investigation into the accident.

Trawlers like the Margiris use dragnets over a kilometer long and process fish in onboard factories, a practice heavily criticized by environmentalists.

Following protests by activists, the Margiris was forced out of Australian waters in 2012.

Traffic data from marinetraffic.com showed on Friday that the vessel, which is owned by Dutch company Parleviliet & Van der Plas and sails under the Lithuanian flag, was still engaged in fishing activities off the coast of France.

Reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Manuel Ausloos; Editing by David Gregorio

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