The French Maritime Minister described the spillage of more than 100,000 dead fish into the Atlantic Ocean off France’s coast as “shocking”, in an incident that has attracted the attention of environmental activists.

On Thursday, the French arm of Sea Shepherd, a non-profit organization that advocates for marine conservation, posted photos of the spillage to its Twitter account. The tweet stated that “Here’s what’s happening in the Bay of Biscay, off the coast of La Rochelle.” “Four factory boats operate within that area, including Margiris — the world’s second-largest trawler (banned in Australia).

Sea Shepherd posted images showing an incredible mass of dead fish floating in the water. These are blue whiting (a sub-species cod). Greenpeace has described Margiris, a Dutch-owned super-trawler, as “mammoth”

, the Pelagic Freeze Trawler Association (PFA), which represents the vessel owner, released a statement Friday. It addressed the incident and stated that it fully “understands what emotions such images may bring.”

The statement also stated that the PFA had made the following clarification: “An amount of bluewhiting was released into the ocean by the Margiris vessel at 5.50am on February 3, 2022, as a result of a rupture in its cod-end net. This is an uncommon occurrence. In this instance, the accident was caused by the unusually large size of the fish caught. The incident and the lost quantities have been reported to Lithuanian authorities in accordance with EU law.

Annick Girardin, the French minister for Fisheries and Maritime Issues — stated that the sight of dead fish was “shocking” and requested that the national fishing surveillance agency launch an investigation to “shed light on this issue so we can identify the causes of significant dumping of fishes.”

Girardin added, in a tweet: “France supports sustainable fisheries and this isn’t reflected here.” If an infraction has occurred, sanctions will be taken against the responsible vesselowner. They will be identified.

Virginijus Sinkevicius, the EU Commissioner of Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, also commented on this case and called it “unfortunate in the Bay of Biscay.”

He stated that the EU Commission would “react immediately” and launch an inquiry to the national authorities in the fishing area and to the presumed flag-state of the vessel to gather all evidence.

Lamya Essemlali, the French head of Sea Shepherd’s French arm — stated to Reuters that she believed the fish were intentionally released.

This is something that environmental activists protest against often. In 2021, CNN highlighted that “everyday, thousands of fishing boats across the seafloor drag huge weightednets across the seafloor. Ensnaring every thing in their wake, and destroying marine habitats.” in a story about bottom trawling. A process that scientists have called “bulldozing the ocean floor”.