Nouakchott, Mauritania, 24 March 2021 – The second largest fishing vessel in the world with a bad track record for chronic overfishing has been spotted fishing in Mauritanian waters. The vessel FV Margiris is a Lithuanian flagged super trawler able to catch and freeze 250 tons of fish per day, and targeting small pelagic fish already heavily overfished in West Africa and vital to food security of millions of people in the region.
“The environmental damage that overfishing is causing to fish stocks and biodiversity is immense. The Margaris uses a net larger than a soccer field and has a storage capacity of 6000 tons. This vessel is a real ‘monster’ and a threat to already overfished pelagic resources,” said Dr Aliou Ba, political adviser at Greenpeace Africa.
While local fishermen and female fish processors are struggling to cope with an unprecedented crisis due to the shortage of fish resources, destructive fishing vessels from around the world are plundering West African waters. This situation has led to food insecurity and loss of livelihoods for local communities. In addition, there is an ever-increasing level of unemployment in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and social unrest in the West African region.
The FV Margiris is present in Mauritanian waters due to an agreement between the European Union (EU) and Mauritania to the disadvantage of millions of people depending on shared fish resources in the West African region. The most critical pelagic resources for regional food security are already overexploited according to the latest report of the Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic (CECAF).
“Unless and until an effective regional management system for these fisheries is in place, no agreement should provide access to small pelagic stocks fundamental to the livelihoods of millions of fisher people in the West African region. Supertrawlers like the Margiris have no place here and are a threat to our food security,” said Dr. Aliou Ba.
Greenpeace, other civil society organisations, and people in many countries have been protesting and condemning the presence of the FV Margiris in their waters for years. In 2012, the vessel was evicted from Australian waters shortly after Greenpeace protested against the vessel in the Dutch port Ijmuiden. Also, protests from Greenpeace as well as local fishermen against the vessel have previously been taking place in West Africa, and in 2019, the vessel was spotted fishing in a marine conservation area in the UK. All protests were due to the vessel’s extraordinary capacity to destroy marine biodiversity.
Greenpeace calls on the EU and Mauritania to prioritize sustainable fishing practices over industrial mega-trawlers.
Greenpeace is also calling on all West African countries to agree on regional measures for the management of shared stocks, based on scientific advice, and ban oversized and devastating vessels like the FV Margiris from entering their waters.
“Corporate interests, like in the case of the FV Margiris, can in no way outweigh the destruction of biodiversity and the risks for food insecurity and livelihoods of millions of people depending on fishing and fish protein,” explained Dr Ba.