Super trawler in Cook Strait

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 13:31 26/03/2013
Margiris
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BANNED: The Margiris is travelling through New Zealand waters but authorities say it is not attempting to fish here.

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One of the world's largest super trawlers quietly visited Nelson last week and then slipped through the Cook Strait after being banned in Australia but authorities here say it is not attempting to fish here.

Margiris is a 9500 ton, 142 metre trawler and factory ship regarded as the world's second largest fishing boat. The vessel was renamed Abel Tasman last year as company Seafish Tasmania tried to use it to catch pelagic fish, particularly jack mackerel, in the Tasman Sea and South Australian Bight.

Following environmental and fishing industry protests, the Australian federal government finally banned its use.

Earlier this month it sailed from Port Lincoln in South Australia without disclosing where it was going.

Ship tracking software revealed it showed up off Nelson at midnight last Wednesday. Over the following 12 hours it sailed through the Cook Strait, and by late Thursday it was rounding Cape Palliser and heading north east.

Its position transponder is no longer being recorded.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry for Primary Industries said that to their knowledge it was the first time the ship had visited New Zealand.

"The FV Margiris does not intend to fish or apply to be registered to fish in New Zealand," the ministry says.

The ship is flagged to Lithuania and owned by Atlantic High Sea Fishing Company of Lithuania.

The biggest deep sea trawler operating out of New Zealand, Sealord's chartered Aleksandr Buryachenko, which also takes mackerel, is about half the size by displacement of Margiris.

The super trawler had left for Australia from West Africa where it plundered fish stocks to collapse.

African states have banned Margiris and other European Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association trawlers because of the way they destroyed inshore fisheries.

Green Party MP Steffan Browning said it was a relief the Margiris will not be allowed to fish in New Zealand waters, but it did highlight the need for legisation to prevent super trawlers operating here.

"Super trawlers threaten the health of our oceans and should not be allowed to fish in New Zealand waters," he said.

"Super trawlers create a significant by-catch problem and are capable of wiping out entire localised fish populations which puts fish stock genetic diversity at risk."

Australia had introduced laws preventing their operation, and New Zealand should follow suit to protect the fishery here, Browning said.

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