Good riddance to bad fishing

Posted by Willie — 14 March 2013 at 6:10pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace
The Margiris is sent packing

Over in Australia, our colleagues have just seen off an unwanted supertrawler, the Margiris. This monster of a boat has been sent packing after an unprecedented campaign by Greenpeace, local fishermen and NGOs, which resulted in the government banished it from fishing in Australian waters.

What the Margiris represents is a modern day problem scouring our oceans – whereby, not content with fishing out our own waters, we create huge factory fishing vessels to circle the globe looking for new waters to exploit. Many of them longer than a football pitch, capable of fishing for months on end, and able to catch and process thousands of tonnes of sea life. They are the embodiment of what is wrong with our fishing policies at an international level.

These boats do not exist to fish in our inshore waters. They need access to other seas to plunder, so they exist only because our governments are happy to do deals to get access to fish far away including West Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, and now increasingly southerly waters like the Tasman Sea and the Southern Ocean.

In their wake, they not only trash stocks of fish, but also all-too-often the livelihoods of coastal communities who depend on the sea. That they do this with vast amounts of direct and indirect subsidy, and enabled by political horse-trading, should be something we are all ashamed of.

If we are to subsidise fishing, surely we should be supporting better sorts of fishing. That means low-impact, high-value coastal fisheries, and it also means managing our own seas to recover and rebuild overfished stocks.

It’s easy to think this is a far away problem, but we shouldn’t be complacent. The UK and the EU are complicit here.

We have some ‘supertrawlers’ of our own, nominally registered in the UK, but operated by European companies. Our recent report uncovering the big business interests behind the NFFO has revealed that some UK fishing associations are actually dominated by these European companies’ vessels.

In fact the owners of the Margiris (Holland-based fishing giant Parlevliet & Van der Plas) are part of a dominant Dutch force behind two of the UK’s regional fishing bodies in the north east of England. Local fishermen in Yorkshire and the north east must be wondering quite what’s gone wrong with a system that favours these globe-sailing fish factories ahead of them.

It’s time we changed the system. As citizens, we have a say in what our taxes subsidise and what policies our politicians support. Do we choose to continue to fund and allow massive globe-trotting supertrawlers? Or do we instead favour recovery of our seas and supporting those who fish in the best way, while looking after their own local patch?

The message from Australia to the Margiris is clear – not in our backyard - and it’s been sent packing. But you have to wonder where it will turn up next. Exporting overfishing is not a lasting solution. We live on a finite planet.

About Willie

Hi, I'm Willie, I work with Greenpeace on all things ocean-related

Twitter: @williemackenzie

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