Who keeps the super trawler afloat?

Feature Story - 22 August, 2012
Greenpeace has revealed that the company behind the super trawler Margiris is being heavily subsidised by EU taxpayers. At a time when fishing capacity must be reduced, the European Government is bankrolling the collapse of fish stocks around the world.
MV Margiris, Super Trawler©Greenpeace / Pierre Gleizes

Global fish stocks are in crisis. We are exploiting fisheries faster than the seas can replenish them.

It is clear that if we are to reverse the decline of our oceans, we need to reduce fishing capacity. Governments are not only failing to do so, they are exacerbating the crisis by financing unviable fishing vessels like the Margiris super trawler.

Instead of trying to find solutions to the overfishing crisis, subsidies prolong unsustainable practices and encourage fishing vessels to explore new regions to exploit.

The Margiris has already helped plunder fish stocks in Europe, West Africa and the Pacific, and is now targeting Australia. Yet if it weren’t for EU subsides, the Margiris owners may be out of business.  

Subsidising ocean destruction

Governments worldwide are handing out subsidies for companies to fish even where it is not profitable to do so. The case is very apparent in Europe, where taxpayer funds are generously handed out in direct and indirect subsidies.

An analysis undertaken by the European Commission’s own Joint Research Centre reveals that the EU’s fishing fleet made an overall loss of 4.6% of total income in 2009, when direct income subsidies were not taken into account.[1]

 Margiris SubsidiesClick on the image to see the full size infographic

The Margiris’ owner

The Margiris is owned by a Dutch company called Parlleviet & Van der Plas (PVP). PVP controls 15 super trawlers flagged to various EU countries. It has received significant direct and indirect financial support through different channels since 1994. Such subsidies enable and encourage the company to operate inefficiently and scale up its operations allowing it to purchase and build larger and more super-sized industrial fishing vessels.

Greenpeace research reveals PVP has received direct subsidies of €39m since 1994 and in recent years (2006-2011) has also received indirect subsidies within the range of €16m and €28m. Indirect subsidies can provide even greater benefit for companies and are harder to track. It includes giving free access to fish resources and reduced operational costs such as fuel use, with the Margiris alone receiving up to €4.2m every year for the past 6 years.

Profit versus subsidies

Given the significant size of the direct and indirect subsidies PVP has received in recent years it is worthwhile to compare these figures with the company’s most recently available revenue and profit figures.



Profit €m

Av Indirect Subsidies (2006-2011)




€16.6m to €37.9m




€16.6m to €37.9m




€16.6m to €37.9m

This comparison demonstrates that the indirect subsidies PVP receives from the EU alone would significantly reduce the profitability of its operations and could indeed make the company unprofitable.

What does this mean for Australia?

Australian fisheries are among the better managed in the world, but still 42% of our fish stocks are overfished or of unknown status. The Margiris will be the biggest fishing vessel ever to fish in Australian waters. The European-subsidised enormous fishing vessels make it impossible for local fishermen to compete and put local fish stocks and marine life at risk.

Take ActionNo super trawlers. Not here. Not anywhere.

Propping Up Plunder

[1] Economic performance of the EU fleet, September 2011, http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/news_and_events/events/080911/anderson_en.pdf

[2] Profundo, Company structures, financing and costs of Dutch pelagic freezer trawler companies, May 2011, p 5. Available from Greenpeace upon request.