On the night of 7th–8th June we went to the north of Salina Island. The preceding few days we had seen several fishing boats with driftnets in Lipari and we suspected that they would be casting them in this area.
That’s exactly how it was. Before sunset, we had been able to verify that many of them were fishing in the area. We observed and documented them casting their nets and later sent the information to the Oceana office in Madrid, who set about alerting the Italian authorities.
At about one o’clock in the morning, the lights of the “Coast Guard” patrol boats came into sight. We could see them drawing alongside several of the fishing boats to check their nets.
Even so, at dawn several of them were taking in their nets and we were able to photograph and film the presence of protected species in some of the nets that exceeded the maximum permitted length.
The scenery surrounding us is stunningly beautiful. I sailed in these islands seven years ago and everything is still the same. They are just as tranquil, little exploited, and with unique natural landscapes. There are two active volcanoes, particularly Stromboli, from whose main crater we can see emissions every half hour; and there in the distance is Etna, standing at over three thousand metres.
We spent the 8th sailing for Sicily, and in the afternoon we anchored off the entrance to Porticello. We didn’t see any netters, although there were a lot of trawlers and longliners. We took the opportunity to go for a swim and at nightfall we set sail again for the south of Sardinia.
The sea was full of lights and we kept stopping to check what type of fishing vessels they were, but none of them were fishing with driftnets.
On the morning of the 9th we continued to head towards Sardinia. During the day there was a light breeze and we were able to hoist the mainsail for a few hours.
The night passed very quietly. The sea was like a mirror, with the stars reflected on its surface, and the watches were very pleasant.
On the morning of the 10th, we arrived in the south of Sardinia. Alter visiting several ports, we moored in Carloforte. We dined ashore and stretched our legs for a bit.
Early on the morning of the 11th, we set sail for Palma de Mallorca. The weather conditions were good. During the day we went under sail for a time. The sea was like a millpond and we were on the look out for any sightings, but although the conditions were perfect there was nothing. During the night we had commented on the fact that the sea was so deserted… but on the morning of the 12th, in the exclusion zone for netters in Spanish waters, the sightings began. First, at eight in the morning, we saw four sperm whales, appearing to be three adults and a juvenile.
Carlos and Jorge dived into the water several times with their cameras but always remaining at a safe distance, which meant that we were unable to get underwater pictures.
A little later we came across a group of either pilot whales or long-finned pilot whales. We allowed ourselves to get quite close and managed to get incredible photos, when, to our surprise, a group of very lively striped dolphins appeared, accompanying a very large fin whale. It was the perfect morning.
At six in the evening we moored in Palma de Mallorca, where we took the robot submarine (ROV) on board and began the second part of the campaign.