On January 5th of this year, Sea Shepherd and Age of Union announced their alliance, the vessel M/Y Age of Union was inaugurated, and with it, the hope to fight even more illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in order to protect and conserve the world’s oceans and marine wildlife—from whales and dolphins, to sharks and rays, to fish and krill.
M/Y Age of Union started its first mission off the coast of France, where the Sea Shepherd media crew was able to capture the shocking footage of over 100,000 dead fish carpeting France's Bay of Biscay, sparking international outrage. Indeed, the newest Sea Shepherd campaign Operation Ocean Killers, being operated by the M/Y Age of Union vessel, exposes the destructive fishing practices of the super trawlers currently allowed to fish in French waters off the Atlantic coast.
On the first day, the crew identified the Lithuanian-flagged super trawler F/V Margiris – registered as the second-largest super trawler in the world – hauling its nets in the Bay, 100 miles off the French coast, legally emptying the sea. But it wasn’t before the second day that the real nightmare happened, when the Age of Union came across another man-made disaster: 100,000 dead fish dumped into the sea by the Margiris super trawler.
“The crew of our small boat the Viking noticed a big flock of sea birds and decided to check it out. They discovered thousands of fish – Blue Whiting – floating dead in the ocean. They immediately radioed the Age of Union to come check it out and launch the drone.
The day after Sea Shepherd released these images to the public, the Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association issued a statement saying that it was a rupture in the net of the FV Margiris that caused the massive spill of dead fish. The Margiris has been fishing in the area for the past few days alongside three other super trawlers.
These Blue Whitings were approximately 27cm long. Surprisingly there is no minimum capture size for this species but we know they aren't sexually mature until 32 cm or around 2 years old. It means all these Blue Whiting were juveniles that weren't old enough to reproduce yet.
In France, Blue Whiting is used mostly to manufacture “crab sticks” while the rest of Europe uses it as fish meal to feed farm animals like pigs or chickens.
Sea Shepherd hopes that a proper investigation will be done by France and Lithuania (the flag state of the Margiris) to understand exactly what happened.” – Sea Shepherd France
The Margiris can fish up to 250 tons per day and store up to 6000 tons in its cargo hold which is 14 times bigger than the average trawler that would normally catch around 50 tons of fish per year.
This super trawler belongs to Parlevliet & Van Der Plas, a Dutch fishing conglomerate operating around Europe and Africa, which owns a 6500 m2 storage freezer in the Faroe Islands and more in the Netherlands. It was banned from Australian waters in 2013 when it sailed under the name Abel Tasman, as well as from West Africa’s coast after destroying several fisheries and is not welcome in many countries worldwide.
This video – with English voiceover after the subtitled introduction – shows the destruction these factory trawlers are really capable of, and why Sea Shepherd is calling for them to be banned.
Even if we ignore the countless numbers of non-target marine wildlife species being trapped and killed in the nets of the super trawlers, the sheer amount of fish being removed from the ocean by these massive ships is simply shocking.
Sea Shepherd’s actions are crucial to protect marine wildlife and Age of Union is determined to play its part and make a difference by sponsoring the M/Y Age of Union ship and its missions. The Age of Union documentary team and Dax Dasilva will be on the ship early March to join the operation and film the next steps of this mission.
Archive footage of the Margiris: Hans Vink Sr.
Photos: Sea Shepherd (Tim Watters, Lamya, Rodolphe Villevieille, Alice Bacou, Thomas Le Coz, Brais Palmás).