Today, fishing communities in the Netherlands and West Africa had their eyes set on Australia and the Abel Tasman “monster boat” – a ship more than twice the size of any fishing vessel to have ever fished in Australian waters.
Barred to operate in Australia for two years after a successful 'people power' campaign, the ship – which can process up to 250 tons of fish in one day – has just departed from the city of Melbourne after being moored and left stationary for months.
Greenpeace had earlier confronted the Abel Tasman – then known as the Margiris – in West Africa in March 2012 and then again in the Netherlands in July and most recently as it arrived in Australia in September. We share the view of the small-scale fishers whose livelihoods would be destroyed by monster boats like the Abel Tasman: no monster boats here, not anywhere.
For years, the Abel Tasman has been plundering the Pacific, Atlantic and many places in between as it can stay at sea for lengthy periods of time given its ability to store more than 6,000 tons of fish – enough to fill 545 buses.
Indiscriminate large-scale fishing like this is jeopardising the livelihoods and food security of millions of people who depend on our oceans for food and jobs.
Governments have taken a stance against this type of destructive monster boat. Senegal President Macky Sall cancelled all 29 licences granted to foreign trawlers when he took office last summer.
Eyewitness reports from here in Africa – namely Mauritania and Senegal – about the negative impacts of this ship’s activities on fishing communities also weighed heavily on the Australian authorities’ decision not to grant fishing licences to the Margiris in September.
Leaders in Senegal and Australia know that the best way to guarantee healthy oceans and long-term sustainable fishing jobs is to empower small-scale fishers and allocate them a more equitable share of fishing quotas.
As the Abel Tasman leaves Australian waters, fishing communities here in West Africa are concerned about this monster boat’s next destination.
Greenpeace Australia’s CEO David Ritter said it best: "This monster is the biggest ship never to have fished in Australian waters. Like most Australians, we’re happy to see the back of it. The tragedy is that this vessel may head off to devastate fisheries elsewhere in the world, as it has done repeatedly in the past."
Communities in West Africa, Europe and Australia have all taken a stand against the Abel Tasman’s oceans destruction. Today as it departs Melbourne, we reminded its owners and the world at large that this ship has no place in any of our oceans. Politicians can and should take the right stand – like they have done here in Senegal and in Australia – and keep monster boats out and keep the small-scale fishing industry alive and well.
Ahmed Diamé is an oceans campaigner based in Greenpeace Africa’s Dakar office.