Super-trawler docks in Australia despite protests

Amy Coopes AFP Yahoo News 31 Aug 12;

A massive super-trawler docked in Australia Thursday despite blockade attempts by Greenpeace activists who accuse it of depleting global fisheries and called on the government to turn it away.

The 9,500-tonne FV Margiris repelled Greenpeace protesters to dock at Port Lincoln in South Australia state for re-flagging as an Australian vessel ahead of its proposed deployment to Tasmania for bait-fishing.

Greenpeace spokeswoman Julie Macken said the Margiris powered into port despite repeated attempts to block it by activists in an inflatable boat.

The Greenpeace boat intercepted the Margiris offshore early Thursday and activists attempted to climb aboard before their ropes were cut and the dinghy was forced away by a pilot ship from the port.

The activists then chained their boat onto the wharf in a bid to block the Margiris from docking but Macken said it steamed ahead undeterred.

"When it was coming in to dock one of our inflatables got between the ship and the wharf but that was unsuccessful," Macken told AFP from Port Lincoln.

"It was pretty extraordinary how aggressively the Margiris was moved into position when our activists were actually still in the way, I was pretty gobsmacked by that."

Macken said they just managed to unlock and scramble out of the way as the Lithuanian-flagged Margiris "kept bearing down".

The 143-metre (469-foot) Margiris sparked protests among conservation groups and local fisherman when it was announced earlier this year that it would come to fish off Tasmania.

Greenpeace has led demonstrations against the super-trawler, chaining its propellers and suspending activists from the ship as it prepared to leave the Netherlands for Australia in June.

Now that it had docked Macken said "the ball is in the court of the Australian community" and government.

Canberra is yet to give final approval for the Margiris to fish Australian waters, with Environment Minister Tony Burke seeking legal advice about whether he can intervene over concerns that dolphins and other animals will inadvertently get swept up in its nets.

"He's asked for advice on that and awaiting advice," a spokeswoman for Burke said.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority has dismissed concerns about over-fishing, saying the trawler would be allowed to catch just 10 percent of available fish and would have little if any impact on the broader eco-system.

According to local media reports, the Margiris is expected to stay in Port Lincoln for five days to be re-flagged as an Australian vessel, and undergo maintenance and government checks.

Greenpeace Oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said trawlers like the Margiris "literally vacuum up entire schools of fish", amid concerns about the depletion of southern fish stocks and the impact on sea birds, seals and dolphins.

"You could fly a jumbo jet through the opening of its net with room to spare," Pelle added in a statement.

"They have overfished European waters, collapsed fisheries in the South Pacific, and devastated fishing communities in West Africa. We simply can't let the same thing happen in Australia."