A ‘monster’ supertrawler that provoked anger among environmentalists after it was spotted off the UK coast fished in a Marine Conservation Zone, it has been claimed.
Once considered the second biggest vessel of its kind in the world, the controversial Margiris can process up to 250 tonnes of fish a day.
The Margiris was once banned from Australian waters and a petition to ban it from the UK has amassed more than 24,000 signatures.
Now analysis from Greenpeace UK suggests that the gigantic boat fished in a protected zone - entirely legally.
The Offshore Overfalls area - located off the Isle of Wight - is home to an endangered species of undulated ray.
Last month MarineTraffic reported that the supertrawler had been spotted between Portsmouth and Sussex, sparking concerns for the area’s fishermen.
The charity has accused the Government of having a slack attitude to marine protection as, while the stretch of sandy seabed is a designated Marine Conservation Zone, there are no extra restrictions on who can fish there.
UK law enforcement officers boarded the Margiris soon after arriving in the Channel, finding no evidence of illegal activity.
Chris Thorne, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: ‘This highlights the UK Government's laissez-faire attitude towards ocean protection, and its continued preference for paper parks that are little more than lines on a map, failing to properly protect Britain's spectacular marine life.
‘Just seven square kilometres of UK waters are fully protected marine areas, the most effective tool for ocean protection and increasing resilience to climate change.
‘Our government speaks well about ocean protection, but these are empty words until it takes serious action to replace the broken network of paper parks, which allow supertrawlers like Margiris to fish in supposedly protected areas right on our doorstep.’
With a deadweight of 6,200 tonnes, the mammoth vessel is longer than a football pitch.
The 466ft (142m) long Margiris is owned by Dutch company Parlevliet van der Plas, which says it has an "excellent reputation for sustainable fishing".
The Margiris was refused fishing licences in Australia in 2013, according to Greenpeace.
At the time, Greenpeace Australia spokesman David Ritter said: ’This monster is the biggest ship never to have fished in Australian waters.
‘Like most Australians, we're happy to see the back of it.’