It’s been a year since we took action against the Margiris super trawler in Australia. To mark the anniversary – admittedly coincidentally – Greenpeace activists in Chile protested against the presence of the monster boat in their waters.
Holding up banners that read, "Not here, Not anywhere" and "Stop plundering our oceans", Greenpeace activists took to the port in Valparaiso on Friday. Two activists also tried to board the 142 metre-long Margiris in order to stall her return to the South Pacific where she fishes on stocks that are in a perilous state.
Local Chilean fishermen, who have seen their own fish stocks plummet due to overfishing, supported our peaceful protest. Although the Margiris does not fish inside Chilean waters, she operates close enough to anger the local fishing community. Fishermen in the Valparaiso area have become desperate as they watch their government facilitate the operation of monster boats, like the Margiris, while not meeting their fishing needs.
I’ve been with Greenpeace for eight years now, working with fishermen across the world. It saddens me that we have reached a point where average small-scale fisherman can no longer make a decent living.
What I’m witnessing is growing global opposition to the way decision-makers assist the worst offenders on our waters by subsidizing damaging activities, offering access to the most remote parts of our oceans, and not having sufficient regulations in place. The victims are those who depend on healthy oceans for food and income, including you and me. The oceans belong to all of us.
For instance as I’m writing this, another Monster boat, the Atlantic Dawn, is hauling mammoth catches of fish off Africa’s coastline in Mauritanian waters. The impact this boat will have on the catches of local fishermen is hard to overstate, rivalled only by its effect on fish and marine populations. Also, because fish populations tend to be migratory, by devastating fish stocks in one area, the Atlantic Dawn severely impacts the livelihoods of fishermen right along the West African coastline.
With her hefty nets spanning hundreds of metres, this vessel swallows up as much fish in a single haul as dozens of other, smaller boats collectively catch in a whole year. Not only are fish captured, but these nets also scoop up entire ecosystems: the fish, their predators – like sharks, manta rays and dolphins – as well as countless other marine life.
Last year the Margiris super trawler was also in West African seas where it contributed massively to the decimation of fish stocks. It then moved to Australia where it continued its relentless pursuit of the world's remaining pelagic fish stocks. Together with a spectrum of people from fishermen to town mayors and politicians, my colleagues brought this vessel and its harmful ways to the attention of those on the highest political level in Australia and successfully secured a two-year ban on all super trawlers including the Margiris.
While Australia's ban is a victory for our oceans, the problem doesn't end there. Fish stocks around the world are in serious trouble because there are simply too many boats chasing too few fish and not enough regulations to control them, particularly in international waters.
In the coming weeks we’re going to be doing more work around the Atlantic Dawn, so keep an eye out as we bring you more updates and ways to get involved!