Fisheries protection officers are monitoring a ‘monster’ supertrawler whose arrival in Irish waters has alarmed environmental groups.
he enormous Margiris is the world’s second biggest fishing vessel, capable of processing 250 tonnes of fish per day and amassing a catch of 6,000 tonnes before needing to dock.
The sheer scale of its operation leaves small vessels struggling to find a catch.
But it also uses controversial kilometre-long nets that trap and kill huge numbers of marine animals and unwanted fish.
Last year the ship caused a storm after dumping an estimated 100,000 unwanted dead fish overboard in the Atlantic off the French coast.
The Dutch-owned, Lithuanian-registered ship departed from the Netherlands on March 10 and has been fishing off the south-west and west coast for the last few days.
Fair Seas Ireland, a coalition of environmental and conservation groups, said the ship would harm wildlife and deplete stocks.
Michael Collins, Independent TD for Cork South West, called for a ban on the ship operating in Irish waters.
“Every time this monster of a vessel enters Irish waters it casts a shadow of destruction over the local fishing fleet,” he said.
“It hoovered up thousands of tonnes of fish in Donegal in 2020 and now it is here off the Cork coast to engage in similar levels of catching that Irish fishermen haven’t a hope of competing with.”
Sinn Féin and the Social Democrats also called for a ban.
Pádraic Fogarty of the Irish Wildlife Trust said a ban should extend to all factory ships and the aim should be for all fishing to be low impact.
He said the Margiris was not effectively monitored so the full extent of the damage it was causing was unknown.
The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority said the Common Fisheries Policy as it stood meant: “Any vessel can fish in any EU waters where they have quota, apart from the territorial waters of an EU member state.”
It said it monitored all vessels but regarded large-scale ships like the Margiris that fished in Irish waters but didn’t land into an Irish port as posing “particular non-compliance risks”.
“The Margiris is monitored by the Fisheries Monitoring Centre at Haulbowline, using satellite Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), Automatic Identification System (AIS) whereby we can see the vessel’s position, speed and heading every two hours, and ERS (Electronic Reporting Systems) which enable us to see the catches logged by the vessels every midnight,” the authority said.
It said it could also call on the Air Corp and Naval Service for help if needed.
However, Green MEP Grace O’Sullivan and Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore said proper monitoring required a physical presence on board.
“There is far too much at stake from both a sustainable fishing and environment perspective to allow the operation of these giant trawlers in our seas to go unchecked,” Ms Whitmore said.
The ship’s owners have responded to criticisms in the past, arguing that they stay within quota and use mid-water nets that leave the seabed untouched and so do not cause they damage they are accused of.