Super Trawler fishing troubled waters

THE controversial super trawler FV Margiris that left Australia last month has been tracked down in one of the world’s most troubled jack mackerel fisheries in the South Pacific.

The Brisbane Times reports the trawler which was banned by the federal government because of doubts over its impact on Australia’s small pelagic fishery left Australia in March, and was tracked this week off Chile. Greenpeace has reported that the Margiris was anchored near the port city of Talcahuano before heading out to sea.

Jack mackerel catches in the region peaked at nearly 5 million tonnes a year around 1995 before collapsing in what fisheries scientists regard as a classic case of overfishing – much of it by super-trawlers.

“The Margiris now appears to be fishing in the under-regulated high seas in the jurisdiction of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation [SPRFMO],” said Greenpeace oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle.

After years of attempts by countries including Australia, New Zealand and Chile to get the fishery under control, the Wellington-based SPRFMO this year imposed a 360,000 tonne catch limit, despite serious concerns about low population levels and high fishing mortality.

The 142 metre super-trawler was banned from fishing in Australian waters by Environment Minister Tony Burke over concerns about its potential by-catch, including seals and dolphins, and localised depletion of the fishery.

Joint venturer Seafish Tasmania is challenging Mr Burke’s decision in the Federal Court, arguing the Margiris would have taken a small percentage of the Australian stock.

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