Fishing authorities have moved to ease fears over the presence of the world’s second largest trawler in Irish waters — the same vessel which has been banned by Australia from fishing in its waters.
The Lithuanian-registered Margiris was previously refused entry to Australian waters but has this week sailed up the west coast of Ireland.
Just this week Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said the ship would remain excluded from its economic zone and that a fresh ban would be implemented once the current two-year ban has elapsed in November.
“It was banned,” Mr Abbott said on Tuesday. “It will stay banned.”
At 143m long, the FV Margiris is the world’s second-largest fishing vessel, after the Dutch-registered Annelies Ilena — formerly the Atlantic Dawn.
Yesterday the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority said the Margiris is now in European ownership and registered under the Lithuanian flag, whereas at the time of its ban in Australia, it was not.
A spokesperson said: “As a European registered fishing vessel, it is permitted to operate in any European waters and can fish in any area, and retain on board any fish for which it has a nationally assigned European quota.”
The authority said the Margiris entered EU waters which are under Irish jurisdiction approximately 60 nautical miles south of Cork Harbour on February 27 and moved across the south and south-west coasts.
“Overnight that night, the Fisheries Monitoring Centre (FMC) operated by the Irish Naval Service contacted the Lithuanian FMC and sought a copy of the electronic logbook record from the vessel and details of its quota rights and access in this area. The log provided showed that the vessel had no fish onboard at that time and it was further clarified that the vessel had 5000T Blue Whiting quota for this area. Therefore the presence of this vessel in these waters fishing for blue whiting would be legitimate.
“The vessel has been continuously monitored while it has been inside Irish waters and its fishing log returns have been made available to SFPA and Naval Service throughout its trip.”
Francis O’Donnell of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation said: “We are concerned about it. There is a requirement on the Irish state when large freezer vessels of that size come into Irish waters to be as tightly monitored and controlled as possible, which includes a physical inspection of the catch.”
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