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June 28, 2008

The use of Driftnets to catch fish is ILLEGAL!

BY: Keith Ellenbogen


©OCEANA/ Keith Ellenbogen


Expedition Leader Xavier Pastor has directed the Marviva Med into the Italian waters South of Sicily along the boarder of the African coast heading west from Tunisia towards Algeria. Within this region near Africa, very little is known about the activity of fishermen and fishing boats. Additionally, Xavier explained to the Oceana Team that the Italian fishermen continue the illegal practice of driftnet fishing. Now with two methods of fishing under surveillance (purseiners and driftnetters) our campaign and our scope of work has broadened to include evening watches — when the drift net fishing boats are active. Each member of the Oceana team was assigned two-hour watches in the bridge from 9pm to 7am.

Driftnets also commonly known as “Walls of Death” — and is an illegal fishing practice in the Mediterranean. These nets are very long and can easily drift for hundreds of kilometers in the open sea — entangling and killing everything that comes into contact with the net.

One of the many reason driftnet fishing is illegal is because their by-catch is frequently protected, threatened and endangered marine animals such as dolphins, whales, sharks, sea turtles, and many other precious sea creatures. Recognizing the destructive nature of this practice the United Nations in the 1990’s established an international moratorium prohibiting the use of driftnets. In 2002, they were banned by the European Union for all their boats operating in any waters. Unfortunately many boats continue to fish using the destructive driftnets.

At 8:30 pm when the sun was close to setting we observed from a distance a converted trawler, now an Italian driftnet fishing boat, Federica AII (7PA1860) pulling out of the water a tuna — and is without question an illegal practice of fishing.

By documenting and reporting these illegal-fishing activities to the press and government officials Oceana is able to have a positive impact on protecting our oceans. This season we are doing it in a joint project with the Fundación Marviva.