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Blog Posts by: Keith Ellenbogen

Riding along the waves of the Marviva Med research boat at 10 nautical miles per hour, looking seaward towards Athens, Greece — time momentarily paused as the air grew still and the sea turned clear as glass. Within the stillness arrived a pod of dolphins that surfed the waves along the boat.

Looking down from the bow, during this surreal moment — that felt like an eternity — we danced in a mental dialogue of non-verbal communication and cerebral understanding. As the flatness of the sea vanished so did the dolphins — but I am sure they will share stories like I am with you.

Off the coast of Sicily are fleets of traditional “Harpoon Fishing Boats” with cables connected to ladders connected to lookout stations — 100ft/33m above sea level — that tower over the city and mountain peeks. Defying gravity 3ft/1m above sea level with a feeling of ‘walking on water’ is a horizontal ladder extending 150ft/50m from the bow of the boat to the harpooner station.

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”— Henry David Thoreau

The swordfish,the only member of the family Xiphiidae, are one of the most beautiful marine animals living in our oceans — with big blue eyes, a long bill and brilliant sail — its spectacular. It’s a fish so great it inspired authors such as Hemmingway and artists all over the world.

If given an opportunity the swordfish can reach a grand size of 15ft/5m weighing 1,400lbs/650kg.

With mooring lines securely fastened to the bollard, the Oceana Marviva Med was docked in the Sicilian Harbor of Porto Di Messina, Banchina G. Marconi. From the ‘porto’ our expedition team of Maria Jose Cornax, Gorka Leclercq, and Keith Ellenbogen departed in a rental car, driving north, along the coast of Sicily to photograph fishing boats armed with driftnets in Catania, Santa Maria la Scala, Stazzo, Riposto, and Giardini – Naxos.

With the Oceana Marviva Med stationed off the coast of Sicily we launched the Grey Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) to photograph tuna farms along the Bay of Milazzo.

On this expedition, Xavier Pastor, Expedition Leader and Carlos Perez, Operations / Logistics Manager informed the underwater photography/videograhy team that if the opportunity presents itself we will try to jump in the water and photograph the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna in the cages.

Submerged beneath the Tyrrhenian Sea is a seamount Seca Del Capo — that is 25ft/5m short of clearing the surface and becoming an island. The seamount descends to a maximum depth at the seafloor of 330ft/100m.

This seamount is well known as a fishing ground and the Oceana team of underwater explorers set out this afternoon to photograph and videograph the marine life surrounding the seamount. The underwater landscape was blue and beautiful but once again void of any large marine life.

At 4 am with only the stars and the moon illuminating the darkness of the sea — our expedition team Carlos Perez, Cesar Fuertes, Maria Jose Cornax,Gorka Leclercq, and Keith Ellenbogen rapidly descended down a vertical ladder from the Oceana Marviva Med into the Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) underway at 8 nautical miles per hour.

Our objective this morning was to use the RIB to get close (within 50ft/20m) to the driftnet fishing boats — and to photograph them catching pelagic fish such as swordfish or tuna.

Anchored 15 minutes outside the Harbor of Lipari Island, this morning with a crew of five team members we launched the grey Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) from the Oceana Marviva Med to discreetly document fishing boats and the equipment within the harbor.

On assignment, we noted at least 10-15 fishing boats potentially masked as longliners but armed with driftnets — most likely used for illegal fishing practices. From high above the harbor we photographed a number of fishing boats with winches — a tell-tale sign they are using driftnets.

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