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17 November 2015

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Anger as world's two largest super-trawlers fish Irish waters

Marine Radar shows the location of the world's largest trawlers on Tuesday 17 November

THERE is fury amongst fisheries organisations and conservation groups as the two largest super-trawlers in the world are now fishing off the west coast of Ireland. 

The 144-metre Dutch super-trawler Annelies Ilena has joined the 136-metre Lithuanian Margiris which has been off the coast since the weekend of the 7/8 November.

In March the Annelies Ilena was detained by the Irish Naval Service under suspicion of an illegal fishing practice known as “high-grading” which involves throwing smaller, less valuable fish which are still above minimum size, back into the sea. 

This charge was dropped but it was found guilty on three other charges including illegal discardments and logbook infringements and fined €105,000.

In the Dáil on Thursday, ahead of the arrival of the Annelies Ilena, there were heated scenes as Sinn Féin TDs Pearse Doherty and Martin Ferris raised the issue of the Margiris at Order of Business demanding to know whether the boat had been inspected:

“The second largest trawler in the world is trawling off the coast of Donegal while Irish fishermen are looking out their windows after being banned from fishing in their own waters,” said Pearse Doherty.

He quizzed An Taoiseach Enda Kenny what actions are being taken to ensure the Lithuanian registered MFV Margiris is being inspected and that it is adhering to the European Common Fisheries Policy.

Martin Ferris 2015

Kerry TD Martin Ferris (pictured) also challenged the Taoiseach on the issue and asked Kenny whether the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency had inspected the Margiris and the two other super-trawlers which had been accompanying it off the Donegal coast at the time.

The Margiris can process 250 tonnes of fish a day. 

In 2012 it was one of a number of vessels banned from fishing in Australian waters as the country moved against so-called super-trawlers.

Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada, Ireland's only representative on the EU Fisheries' Committee, has called for greater scrutiny of super-trawlers, and said she is 'frustrated' that authorities continue to allow them to operate in Irish seas:

"We in Sinn Féin are completely opposed to foreign super-trawlers being given disproportionate quotas and consequently reaping devastation on fish stocks and small fishermen.

"The capacity of these trawlers is more than dozens of small trawlers combined and Irish fishermen and small-scale fisheries cannot cope, compete or sustain operators of foreign industrial super trawlers and factory ships who have no concern or regard for the sustainability of our national fisheries, fishermen and over-exploited stocks," she said.

Meanwhile the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) says it has written to Marine Minister Simon Coveney on the issue. 

 The conservation group says this type of fishing can have serious impact on non-target species, frequently referred to as “by-catch”:

“By-catch can include marine mammals such as whales and dolphins but also turtles, sharks or indeed anything else that is in the way,” the IWT said.

In their letter the group has asked Minister Coveney to confirm whether an independent observer is present onboard the MFV Margiris, something which EU Council Regulations says should be in place.

IWT Campaigns Officer Pádraic Fogarty says: 

“Irish waters were designated as a whale and dolphin sanctuary in 1991. It is simply unacceptable that enormous boats like this can move into our waters and hoover up marine life. We need to know whether EU law is being adhered to in this matter.”

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