Super trawler arriving amidst high security

One of the world's largest super trawlers is due in Australia today to take Tasman Sea jack mackerel in an operation that terrifies environmentalists.

The 9500 tonne 142 metre Dutch owned Margiris is in Port Flinders in South Australia with a quota from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to take 18,000-tonnes of mainly mackerel and some redbait, due this morning.

The ship, twice the size of anything that has ever fished in the Tasman, comes from a Dutch fleet that is now banned on West Africa's coast after destroying the fishery there.

It has also severely damaged fishing in the North Atlantic and the mackerel fishery off South America.

Margiris has caused a political uproar in Australia and there is industry speculation that it could operate here.

There would be little in New Zealand law to stop it once it obtained a quota.

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.

A Matamata dairy farmer, Matthew Zonderop, has worked on the super-trawlers and says everything should be done to keep them out of our waters.

"We are asking for trouble, they will just plunder us, take everything and go," he said.

Margiris will operate as a joint venture between Seafish Tasmania and Seafish Tasmania Pelagic, a fully owned subsidiary of the long established Dutch company Parlevliet and Van der Plas BV.

One of the directors of Seafish Tasmania is Auckland multi-millionaire Peter Simunovich whose family is on the NBR Rich List worth $180 million.

The late Ivan Simunovich made the family fortune on the scampi trade before selling it out to Sanford Fishing in 2004 for $137 million.

Zonderop, who began on North Atlantic super-trawlers as a deck hand and rose to become a mate, says a single super-trawler could take in just under a month New Zealand's entire 120,000 tonne hoki annual allowable catch. It could take one of the key southern blue whiting annual quotas in a single voyage.

"These ships are really efficient, they take everything they target," he said.

"Our New Zealand fishery does not have the sustainability of the North Sea and North Atlantic.... We don't have that and our fish stakes wouldn't sustain a trawler of that size."

Zonderop said when he first went into a herring fishery north of Iceland, they were taking fish as big as his arm; within five years they were only as big as his hand.

"It was pure greed; the people who ran the boats did not know the word sustainability."

In cold waters, such as the North Sea, the super trawlers had very low by-catches and he believed it would be the same chasing pelagic species around New Zealand.

"They are very efficient and very ruthless."

Zonderop said super-trawlers had 1500 metre long nets with very wide openings and powerful engines. With their sonars they could quickly identify mid-ocean schools of fish and sweep them in.

Each net shoot would take around 1000 tonnes of fish - against around 100 tonnes for the average sized trawler in New Zealand. The net cod-end was never hauled up onto a factory deck; super-trawlers pump fish straight from the net, as it lay astern.

The fish would not be damaged as occurs when nets are hauled onto decks.

The nets could be quickly reset and a super-trawler could do around 18 shots over three days - 18,000 tonnes of fish in that time.

"If they came here they would take everything in a year and then be gone.

"What would happen to the rest of the fishing industry after them?"

Much of their catch was destined for third world African markets or as pet food or fishmeal.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation says South Australian port authorities have now confirmed the trawler has requested a berth in Port Lincoln.

Environmentalist from Greenpeace managed to delay its departure from the Dutch port of Ijmuiden for five days.

The Tasmanian Conservation Trust says that ''the fish the Margiris will target are a vital food source for important species like the critically endangered southern bluefin tuna, seabirds, marine mammals and game fish.

"Trawlers of this type have a horrendous record of by-catch and the ship itself represents a direct threat to marine mammals like dolphins and seals."

Tuna Club of Tasmania vice president Martin Haley says there is strong opposition to the "ocean-going vacuum cleaner's impending arrival".

Greenpeace say the ''bloated fleet'' of heavily subsidised European trawlers have fished their own waters to near collapse and they've ''brought fisheries to their knees everywhere they've been since''.

Radical environmentalists Sea Shepherd say Margiris will have a huge impact.

"If overfishing does not stop, the world's fisheries will completely collapse by 2048," they claim, adding ''allowing this super trawler to operate in Australia's waters would be a further sealing of humanities fate."