Giant Factory Ships: Operation Ocean Killers
Thursday, 17 Feb, 2022
Operation Ocean Killers aims to shine a spotlight on the giant factory ships that plunder the ocean, taking the majority of the quotas and public subsidies. An environmental, economic and societal scandal. Commentary by Lamya Essemlali, President Sea Shepherd France.
Last December, our RHIB, the Clementine, visited the fishing grounds of the giant factory ships that regularly operate in the English Channel to bring back images of these steel monsters with disproportionate capacities. Capable of catching up to 200 tons of fish a day (countless individuals), these vessels, some of which carry the MSC “sustainable fishing” label, are the symbol of excess and overfishing. In the space of just four days, our teams were able to film eight giant trawlers (Afrika, Maartje Theadora, Zeeland, Scombrus, Dirk Dirk, Alida, Frank Bonefaas and Annie Hillina) ranging in size from 86 to 140 meters and operating from the northwest of Le Havre to the northeast of Cherbourg, France.
Although several nationalities share the responsibility, vessels flying the Dutch flag are increasingly taking over French waters. The only French flag is flown by the Scombrus, a ship belonging to the company France Pélagique which, as its name does not indicate, is wholly owned by the Dutch holding company Cornelis Vrolijk. Why does France allow these ships to plunder its territorial waters in this way?
Within the framework of Operation Dolphin Bycatch (in France’s Bay of Biscay), one of the issues discussed was why dolphins have come closer to the coast in recent years, dying tragically in the fishing nets of coastal fishing vessels, which are admittedly much smaller than the giant trawlers, but which are present in large numbers and using non-selective fishing methods.
Scientific hypotheses assume that the giant trawlers, by overfishing the dolphins' prey fish offshore, pushed the dolphins closer to the coast. But near the coast, the ocean is now a minefield of non-selective fishing. This is a lose-lose situation for the dolphins, who are either starving or suffocating in the fishing nets due to overfishing.
While in previous years we focused exclusively on coastal fishing vessels (whose impact on marine life was greatly underestimated), we feel it’s necessary to focus just as much on another part of the problem, further offshore, involving fewer vessels, but whose impact on the ocean is catastrophic.
When looking at the big picture, it’s absurd to continue to apply the logic of industrial exploitation to marine wildlife. No equivalent land-based hunt exists today. The ocean is a living environment and life in it is as fragile as it is necessary for our own survival, our climate and the air we breathe.
Operation Ocean Killers aims to shine a spotlight on the giant factory ships that plunder the ocean, taking the majority of the quotas and public subsidies. An environmental, economic and societal scandal.