Photos of Spilled Catch Shock European Fisheries Regulators

dead whiting
Courtesy Sea Shepherd France

Published Feb 6, 2022 9:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

The environmental group Sea Shepherd has obtained aerial footage of a large-scale release of dead fish off the coast of France, drawing scrutiny from the public and from regulators.

The Sea Shepherd patrol vessel Age of Union is operating in the Bay of Biscay off La Rochelle, monitoring four factory trawlers to collect evidence of dolphin bycatch. On her most recent patrol, the vessel observed a release of thousands of blue whiting into the ocean. This catch came from the Margiris, the second largest trawler in the world. 

Sea Shepherd asserted that the fish were illegally dumped over the side, but the Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association (PFA) - which represents Margulis' operator - told media that the release was an accidental "fishing incident" involving a ruptured net. 

"We would like to clarify that around 0550 on 3 February 2022, an amount of blue whiting was involuntarily released into the sea from the Margiris vessel, due to a rupture in the cod-end part of its net. Such an accident is a rare occurrence and in this case was caused by the unexpectedly large size of the fish caught," said the PFA in a statement to media. 


Regulators from France and the EU are asking for more information. 

"At the sight of the images shared by [Sea Shepherd France], I asked the National Fisheries Monitoring Center to shed light on this subject in order to identify the cause of these discards of fish. Of course, these images are shocking," said French Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin. "France supports sustainable fishing and this isn't reflected here. Should an infraction have occurred, sanctions would be taken against the responsible shipowner that will be identified."

Virginijus Sinkevi?ius, EU commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries, said in a statement that his office is collecting "exhaustive information and evidence" about the release. 

On February 6, Margiris departed the fishing grounds and headed towards Falmouth, England, outside of the European Union. There she rendezvoused with another trawler operated by the same firm, the Alina, then departed again, according to Sea Shepherd.