France launches investigation after huge spill of dead fish off Atlantic coast

The French branch of Sea Shepherd – a non-profit marine conservation activism organization – posted photos of the spill on its Twitter page on Thursday. “Here’s what’s happening right now in the Bay of Biscay off La Rochelle,” the tweet read. “Four factory ships operate in this area, including the Margiris – the second largest trawler in the world (banned in Australia).”
the images posted by Sea Shepherd show an astonishing mass of dead fish – which are blue whiting, a subspecies of cod – floating in the water. The Dutch-owned Margiris has been described as a “mammoth super-trawler” by Greenpeace.
The Pelagic Freeze-Trawler Association (PFA) – which represents the owner of the vessel – issued a statement on the incident on Friday and said it “fully understands the emotions such images can bring”.

In the statement, the PFA also said: “We would like to clarify that at approximately 5:50 a.m. on February 3, 2022, a quantity of blue whiting was unintentionally released into the sea by the vessel Margiris, due to a rupture in the part of its net. Such an accident is a rare event and in this case was caused by the unexpected size of the fish caught. In accordance with EU legislation, the incident and the quantities lost have been recorded in the vessel’s logbook and reported to the authorities of the vessel’s flag State, Lithuania.”

Annick Girardin — the French Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs — said the sight of the dead fish was ‘shocking’ and asked the national fisheries surveillance authority to open an investigation to “shed light on this matter in order to identify the causes of the large fish spill”.

In a tweet, Girardin also added: “France supports sustainable fishing and this is not reflected here. In the event of a breach, sanctions would be taken against the responsible shipowner who will be identified.”

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Virginijus Sinkevičius – the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries – also commented on the case and called it “an unfortunate incident in the Bay of Biscay”.

On Twitterhe said the European Commission would “react immediately” and launch an investigation with the national authorities of the fishing area and the suspected flag state of the vessel, in order to obtain comprehensive information and evidence on the case” .
Lamya Essemlali – the head of the French branch of Sea Shepherd – told Reuters she believed the fish had been deliberately discarded.
Trawling on this scale is an act that many environmental activists often protest – in 2021, CNN pointed out that “every day, thousands of fishing boats around the world drag huge weighted nets across the seabed, trapping everything in their path and destroying the navy”. habitats” in an article on bottom trawling, a process that has been described by scientists as “grazing” the ocean floor.


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