They say it’s bad luck to change the name of a ship. The owners of the super trawler formerly known as Margiris may be pondering this old saltie’s superstition as the Australian government ramps up its efforts to prevent the ship fishing out in Australian waters.
The issues are complex and controversial. Environmentalists are worried that this ship – larger than any fishing vessel that has operated in Australian waters before – will gobble up too many fish, and destroy too much ‘by-catch’ while doing so.
Scientists are divided, and there’s a healthy dose of nationalism in play as well, worried that ‘our’ fish will be harvested for sale overseas. But there’s a division of power in a federal system, and as Tasmanian government has already okayed the deal it’s not clear what the federal Minister for the Environment can do, especially in a hung Parliament. We may find out later today. [Update: Or not]
As a historian, I’m intrigued by the actions of the spin-doctors behind the Dutch company, Parlevliet & Van Der Plas, who have decided to rename the ship, which is now registered in Australian waters as the FV Abel Tasman. It’s a clever attempt to highlight 400 years of Dutch-Australian contact, but I think they may have been too clever by half.