Last winter, the French authorities in Cherbourg detained the super-trawler Maartje Theadora. The vessel’s owner, the Parelvliet company and Van der Plas of Katwijk, have to pay a fine of almost 600,000 euro for fishing with a prohibited net. Dutch super-trawlers sail the world’s oceans, in search of shoals of herring and mackerel. Their enormous nets and gigantic hauls spark concern and criticism among smaller fishing enterprises and environmental organisations.
The company claims that it adheres to fishing guidelines, but is that really the case? Parelvliet and Van der Plas stirred up controversy again recently when a former crew member of their trawler Jan Maria said that enormous amounts of usable, but less commercially appealing fish, were being thrown back into the sea, dead. And that is prohibited.
'Seagoing Vacuum Cleaners'
The French fishermen call the Dutch super-trawlers ‘seagoing vacuum cleaners’. The ships’ nets are 600 metres long with an opening at the front the size of a football pitch. The net can become so full of fish that it’s too heavy to haul on board. So the fish are pumped up instead. A super-trawler can catch around 250 thousand kilos of fish. Pelagic fish. These are fish that swim in schools, often coming close to the surface in water columns. Herring and mackerel are both types of pelagic fish.
The fish are sorted below deck, into species and size. The fish are deep-frozen in boxes of twenty-kilo packs. This ship contains a deep-freeze area with sufficient capacity for seven million kilos of fish. This is 350 thousand boxes. Which represents 18 million meals. Diek Parelvliet and Jan van der Plas own the five largest fishing vessels in the world, and have ranked among the Quote 500 (the 500 richest people in the Netherlands) for four years. They are each worth 14 million euro.
Who monitors these huge seagoing fish factories? ZEMBLA finds out whether the laws and guidelines that apply to our oceans are really giving fish stocks the protection they need.