FV Margiris—another skeleton in the closet

The FV Margiris has a long and dark history.

During the late 90's when it was known as the "Atlantic Star", growing opposition from fisherman and American public stopped it from fishing in US waters and drove it off to Europe. Below is how Greenpeace USA told the story.

Atlantic Star Factory Trawler Loses Battle to Fish U.S. Waters

September 9, 1999 | In a victory for fish and fishermen, the Atlantic Star, one of the huge factory trawlers eyeing the East Coast herring and mackerel fisheries, has called it quits. By trading in her U.S. flag for a Dutch flag and changing her name to the Aneellas Ilena, the Atlantic Star has surrendered its right to fish in U.S. waters. Since the passage of the Magnuson Fisheries Conservation and Management Act in 1976, foreign flagged vessels are prohibited from fishing U.S. waters.
"In changing its name and flag," noted Niaz Dorry, Greenpeace oceans specialist, "the Atlantic Star's owners have acknowledged the clear message that the fisherman and the public see no place for factory trawlers in New England - or U.S. - waters."

Reacting to growing concern about the history of factory trawlers and the destruction they caused on the Georges and the Grand Banks in the '60s and '70s, fishing communities and Greenpeace in 1996 began fighting to keep those huge ocean nomads from returning to the region.

"A very big hurrah!" said Captain Tom Brancaleone, a Gloucester fisherman for the past 42 years. "So many different sectors of the Gloucester region's fishing communities came together to stop the return of factory trawlers. We knew that all of our work to save the fisheries in this region would be for naught if factory trawlers were to fish indiscriminately and take the food of the very fish we are trying to save, especially cod, haddock, and other groundfish on Georges Bank."

Factory trawlers, such as the Atlantic Star, have been eyeing the herring and mackerel fisheries as the next place to plunder. These fisheries are essential prey for Atlantic Cod, Haddock, Bluefin Tuna, Striped Bass, and many other commercially valuable species that are considered overfished or recovering from overfishing. In addition, herring and mackerel are the food for endangered and threatened marine mammals such as the Fin and Humpback whales and the Harbor Porpoise, as well as many seabirds. Industrial-scale fishing vessels, such as factory trawlers, represent the smallest percentage of fishing vessels globally yet they are responsible for most of the global fish catches; the most bycatch (fish and other sea creatures thrown back dead); the least number of people employed; and the least amount of revenue generated for local communities.

A management plan for herring is in the making, but it requires more protection for the other marine animals that rely on herring as their primary food supply. The public can submit comments to the National Marine Fisheries Service by September 27, 1999, on the proposed herring management plan.

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