CONTROVERSIAL super trawler, the FV Margiris, a giant vessel measuring 143 metres long, with a net 600 metres long and a capacity of 9500 tonnes is set to target baitfish in Australian waters.
The super trawler that has caused controversy for its role in fishing off Europe and West Africa is now coming to Australia, courtesy of SeaFish Tasmania in a joint venture with its Lithuanian owners.
According to a report in Tasmania's Examiner, the massive trawler will be based in Devonport from where it will target slimy (blue) mackerel baitfish along the Eastern seaboard in Commonwealth waters, from Queensland down to Tasmania and across to Western Australia.
The vessel has a total allowable catch of 18,000 tonnes a year, freezes its catch on-board, and can stay at sea for six to eight weeks at a time. The frozen mackerel blocks will reportedly be cold stored in Devonport, and shipped out to West Africa and Asia.
The move is understandably causing widespread uproar among recreational and commercial fishers and environmental groups, due to valid concerns over the long term impact such large scale harvesting will have on the marine food chain.
Greenpeace oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said the organisation had confronted the Margiris off the coast of Mauritania in March, for its role in what it says is overfishing in the North Sea and South Pacific ''to the point of plunder''.
The environmental group claims the industrial super-trawler is part of the European Association of pelagic freezer trawlers (PFA), responsible for "some of the worst fishing excesses on the planet.''
It said PFA vessels had been reponsible for jack mackerel stocks off Chile plummeting by 90 per cent.
"There has never been a trawler of this scale in Australian waters to my understanding before and that is a serious concern that we just don't know what effect it will have on the food chain," Greens MP Kim Booth said.
However, Australian unions are supporting the trawler because the majority of crew will be from Tasmania and the Federal Government says vigorous checks will be applied to its catch rates.