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

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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 ship’s owner — released a statement Friday, addressing the incident and said he “fully understands the emotions such images can bring.”

The PFA also said: “We would like to clarify that at approximately 5.50am on February 3, 2022, a quantity of blue whiting was unintentionally thrown back to sea by the vessel Margiris, due to a rupture in the codend part of his net. Such an accident is a rare event and, in this case, was caused by the surprisingly large 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.”

In a statement to CNN, the PFA said, “Blue whiting is a target species (not a bycatch) that is of great value to our members. We can tell you that it is not in our members’ interest to lose the fish. . Lost fish will be deducted from the vessel’s quota. PFA members fish for human consumption only, and we regret that fish are no longer available for this purpose.

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.”

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 thought the fish had been deliberately discarded.

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