It’s almost a year since we took action against the Margiris supertrawler in Port Lincoln and drove her out of our waters. By coincidence, last Friday Greenpeace Chile underlined the anniversary by challenging the monster boat’s presence in their waters, with the support of local fishermen.
Our message to the Margiris when she came to Australia was, “not here, not anywhere’.
Two Greenpeace activists echoed that sentiment on Friday. They locked onto the anchor chains of the 142 metre-long Margiris to stall her return to the South Pacific where she fishes on perilously low stocks. A 30m banner was fixed to the boat’s side reading “No super arrasteros!” or ‘No super trawlers!’ in Spanish.
Local Chilean fishermen supported our peaceful protest, as we have seen in other parts of the world where small-scale fishermen have witnessed their fish stocks plummet from overfishing by supertrawlers.
Although the Margiris does not fish inside Chilean waters, she operates close enough to anger the local fishing community. Fishermen from the Valparaiso area have become desperate as they watch their government grease the way for these monster boats while failing to provide for their own fishing needs.
This desperation fueled some fishermen's frustration during Friday's protest. Passions were running high. Unfortunately this led some to take matters into their own hands and things turned briefly violent, with a banner catching alight.
Peaceful non-violent direct action is at the core of all Greenpeace protests and this escalation led our activists to disengage from the scene after attempting to diffuse the situation. Fortunately the protest reached a peaceful resolution and no one was harmed.
Sadly, the fishermen’s frustration is not surprising. Working on the oceans campaign I regularly hear stories of small-scale fishermen who can no longer make a decent living. This saddens and emboldens me to campaign even harder.
What we see is growing opposition around the globe to the actions of decision-makers who ignore the fact the oceans belong to all of us.
The system is designed to assist the worst offenders in our waters by subsidising the biggest operators, which often happen to be the most damaging. It also offers them largely unregulated access to the most remote parts of our oceans. The victims are those who depend on healthy oceans for food and income, including you and me.
Greenpeace has been following the Margiris for nearly two years, exposing her destructive practices wherever she goes. After contributing to the decimation of fish stocks in the Pacific and West African waters, this mammoth boat came to Australia in 2012 to continue its relentless pursuit of the world's dwindling pelagic fish stocks.
Together with a spectrum of Australians - from fishermen to small-town mayors, environment activists and politicians - we successfully secured a two-year ban on supertrawlers.
While the temporary ban is a victory for our oceans, the problem doesn't end there.
It’s time for a permanent ban on supertrawlers in Australian waters.
Our oceans also demand action from governments around the globe to reduce their bloated industrial fleets, starting with these industrial monster boats.