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Sydney (AFP) June 28, 2012
Greenpeace activists sabotaged a fishing super-trawler as it prepared to leave the Netherlands for Australia, the group said Thursday, chaining its propellers and suspending themselves from the ship.
The Lithuanian-flagged FV Margiris, which is to be re-flagged as Australian and deployed to catch baitfish off the southern island state of Tasmania, was stopped by the Greenpeace team as it tried to leave the Dutch port of Ijmuiden.
The 143-metre (469-feet), 9,500-tonne Margiris is one of the world's largest fishing trawlers, and has been accused by Greenpeace in the past of over-fishing off West Africa.
"Wherever this ship has gone it has destroyed fish stocks and ruined fishermen's livelihoods," Greenpeace Oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle told AFP.
Greenpeace said that its activists had put a chain around the trawler's propeller, "and two climbers are currently hanging on the cables between the ship and the quay" to prevent the Margiris from sailing for Tasmania.
The chain, fixed by three divers, and the climbers were still in place on the ship at daybreak Thursday in the Netherlands, Pelle said.
"Their intention is to remain as long as possible to hamper the vessel's departure," he said.
The harbourmaster had pushed back the Margiris's scheduled departure time to midnight Friday local time, but Pelle said it was unclear whether that was linked to the Greenpeace action.
Opponents of the trawler, which include conservation groups and local fishermen, have expressed concern about depletion of southern fish stocks and the impact on sea birds, seals and dolphins.
But the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has dismissed over-fishing concerns, saying the Margiris would have little if any impact on the broader eco-system with strict catch limits in place.
According to AFMA the trawler will be allowed to catch just 10 percent of available fish -- a highly precautionary figure it says is well below international standards.
However, independent Tasmanian lawmaker Andrew Wilkie pressed Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the issue in parliament this week, asking "what on earth" Australia was doing in welcoming the super-trawler.
Gillard said no formal application had yet been made for an operating licence and stressed the vessel would have strict quotas, possibly being required to have independent observers and seal-detection equipment on board.
Australia unveiled plans earlier this month to create the world's largest network of marine parks to protect ocean life -- encompassing more than one-third of its territorial waters -- with limits placed on fishing.
But Greenpeace's Pelle said that allowing the Margiris to operate in Australian waters made a mockery of Canberra's recent commitments to tackle overfishing at the Rio environment summit.
"The Margiris is bad news for Australia and globally irresponsible. Offering this vessel yet another fishing ground to plunder simply perpetuates an unsustainable fishing industry," he said.
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