• Dutch-owned supertrawler FV Margiris deposited 100,000 dead fish off the French coast on Thursday.
  • Images of the incident show a carpet of dead blue whiting in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • France and the European Commission have launched inquiries into the spill.

France and the European Commission have launched inquiries into how a Dutch-owned supertrawler deposited more than 100,000 dead fish in the Atlantic Ocean off the French coast on Thursday.

The FV Margiris, the second-biggest fishing vessel in the world, deposited the fish carcasses in the Bay of Biscay early on Thursday morning.

 

Images of the spill show a carpet of dead blue whiting, a sub-species of cod used to mass-produce fish fingers, covering a surface area of over 32,000 square feet, said conservation group Sea Shepherd France, per The Washington Post.

The French minister for fisheries and maritime issues, Annick Girardin, called the images “shocking.”

In a tweet posted on Thursday, the minister said she had ordered France’s national fishing surveillance authority to begin an inquiry.

“France defends sustainable fishing and this isn’t reflected here,” the tweet continued. “If an infraction were to be proven, sanctions would be taken against the responsible shipowner who will be identified.”

The EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries said on Twitter that the EU Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, is also launching an inquiry.

The fishing industry group PFA, which represents the trawler’s owner, is attributing the spill to a rupture in the supertrawler’s net, according to a statement.

“This is a very rare occurrence,” the PFA added.

But Sea Shepherd France, which shared the initial images of the spill, has accused the vessel of depositing the fish intentionally and illegally, The Times reported.

The group said it believes the vessel orchestrated the spill as it wanted to dump a type of fish it did not want to process — a practice banned under European Union fishing rules.

Trawlers like the Margiris typically use giant drag nets to catch fish and then process them on-board. Environmentalists are critical of the practice as they say it depletes fish stocks and damages marine life, according to The Washington Post.

Lamya Essemlali, the chairperson of Sea Shepherds France, told Sky News: “It has an impact on the fish population itself but also it has an impact on the predators, like dolphins, because the fish that these super trawlers are fishing are the main preys of dolphins and sharks. And basically, we are driving dolphins to starvation.”

The Margiris,owned by the Dutch company Parleviliet & Van der Plas and sails under the flag of Lithuania, was forced to leave Australian waters in 2012 after environmentalists protested.

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