Oceana has been identifying and documenting the illegal activities of 71 Italian and 37 French driftnetters for two years. In a recent report, the European Commission acknowledged the existence of these vessels and linked them to deficient control measur
Last Tuesday, the European Commission presented a report to the European Parliament and Council regarding Member states’ monitoring of compliance with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) during the years of 2003-2005. In the document, they identified the CFP’s non-compliance hot spots that need to be implemented.
Amongst other aspects, the document acknowledges the continued use of driftnets for capturing highly migratory species in EU countries like Italy, France, Spain and Greece. This practice has been banned since 2002 for Community fleets and in European waters. This acknowledgment corroborates the complaints being made by Oceana since 2005, based on the campaigns carried out in the Mediterranean aboard the Oceana Ranger research vessel.
Oceana has identified, documented and reported the activity of at least 71 Italian and 37 French driftnetters operating with complete impunity in waters of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the substantial subsidies received by some of these vessels before the establishment of the prohibition to convert to other fishing methods.
According to Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe, ”The continued use of driftnets by the European fleet calls into question the effectiveness of any measure adopted within the framework of the Common Fisheries Policy.”
The document also reflects the inadequacy of the measures used to control and track this fishery’s products and their commercialisation. This is especially important in regards to imported products-- large quantities of fishery products enter EU markets without any type of information regarding origin, area or method of extraction.
This occurs, for example, with swordfish captured by Moroccan fleets using driftnets in the Alboran Sea and the Straits of Gibraltar. Ninety-five percent of this country’s catch, taken with nets that are prohibited by various international organisations, is directly imported into the European market, mainly through Spanish companies. At the same time, Europe is subsidising Morocco with €1.25M annually to eliminate this fishing gear. Correct tracking and labelling of this product would allow EU consumers to distinguish which swordfish is caught with nets that cause a severe threat to the conservation of cetaceans. This way, the market itself could force the Moroccan fleet to convert to other more sustainable fishing methods, such as longlining.
In Xavier Pastor’s opinion: “If the control measures have been ineffective in eliminating this fleet throughout five years of prohibition, we can’t expect any more success in making Member states comply with other Community measures.” He concluded, “the improvement and implementation of control measures is now more important than ever, because although there is a wide range of measures available for fisheries, compliance with these measures is not assured.”
In 2007, Oceana will continue to supervise the evolution of these fleets in the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Oceana Ranger research vessel.
More information about the activities concerning driftnets in the Mediterranean Sea in 2005 and 2006, as well as Oceana’s recommendations for the definitive elimination of these fleets, is available at:
Italian driftnetters 2006: The OCEANA report (PDF – 3.8 MB)