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May 27, 2008

The Harbour of Ibiza, Spain

BY: Keith Ellenbogen


©OCEANA/ Keith Ellenbogen


On this overcast morning with occasional light rain we remained anchored just outside Ibiza’s harbor as a satellite communication equipment specialist came onboard the ship to install some necessary equipment. By mid afternoon with the break of the sun all our communication systems were successfully working.

While anchored in the harbor of Ibiza we keep monitoring the four French purseiners docked in the largest pier of the port. In an area as overfished as this one, is outrageous that this kind of fishery is still allowed, even at the peak of the short tuna spawning season. Oceana and Marviva are strongly supporting a proposal by WWF to designate the waters around the Balearic Islands as a sanctuary, where no industrial fishing should be allowed. That proposal has received the formal support of a unanimous decision of the Balearic Islands Parliament and that of the Senate of Spain.

Pursainer fishing boats are of particular significance because they are one of the most destructive methods of fishing for bluefin tuna industry. This fishing technique is harmful for sustainable seas because it catches all most all the bluefin tuna with one ‘giant scoop’. The method of pursainer is to encircle the tuna spawning aggregations with a giant net and then close bottom trapping all the fish. The live tuna are then transferred to a tug-boat that travels slowly (2 knots) towing a holding pen where the tuna are constantly feed to bulk up before being killed and sold to market.

In aim to document the pursainers operations, expedition leader Xavier Pastor has decided that we will wait for the boats to set sail and lead us to their fishing grounds. Our hope is that they will leave tonight or tomorrow morning — but he suspects they will wait for better weather before departing. One of the challenges of following the pursainers is that they are two times as fast as our boat. However, once we know the general direction the pursainers are heading Xavier believes he will be able to calculate the possible location for bluefin tuna fishing.

In the late afternoon around 6 pm with the boat swaying from side to side we observed about a dozen bottom trawlers return to the harbor. Each boat and its call number was photographed and videographed for analysis.

As the sun set around 9pm the French pursainer fishing vessels remained docked in the harbor.