The international marine conservation organisation, Oceana, has announced that the Italian State Attorney General (l’Avvocatura dello Stato italiano) has modified its position and now considers it illegal to have the driftnets known as “spadare” on board,
The Italian Legislative Department has recently backed the new “zero tolerance” policy recently announced by Paolo de Castro, the Italian Minister of Agriculture and Fishing, declaring it illegal for vessels to carry driftnets, known as “spadare” on board. These nets have been prohibited by the EU since 2002. This decision precedes the publication of a decree announced by De Castro himself and will allow the confiscation of the nets at port, without having to verify their use on the high seas.
In Italy, approximately one hundred vessels are still carrying out illegal fishing activities with these nets, used to capture swordfish, four years after the prohibition came into effect, and after having received subsidies of up to € 71,000 per vessel from Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) funds, as proven by Oceana. This latest measure is essential to eliminate this fleet, something which Oceana has been demanding for years within their campaign to eliminate of driftnets in the Mediterranean Sea.
During the past two years, Oceana has campained aboard the Oceana Ranger research catamaran and has identified, photographed and filmed the activity of 71 driftnetters, both on the high seas and at port, as well as large quantities of driftnets exceeding the legal length of 2.5 Km established by the EU.
According to Xavier Pastor, marine biologist and Director of Oceana in Europe: “Our crew was able to verify, both at sea and at port, the use and possession on board vessels of driftnets banned by the European Union. These were four to eight times longer than the length authorised by the Italian government.”
Oceana has also affirmed that competent control bodies, such as the Italian Coast Guard (Guardia Costiera), lacked the legal support necessary to carry out operations against these pirate fishing practices. Up to now, they could confiscate the gear only if the offending vessel was detected while fishing, but nets could be displayed at port with complete freedom.
The results of Oceana´s investigations are detailed in a report called “Italian driftnets 2006: an Oceana report”, which also includes a series of recommendations geared toward the definitive elimination of this illegal gear.
Oceana urges the Italian government to definitively take the measures necessary to make Minister De Castro’s “zero tolerance” policy a reality. “An important step has been taken, but it must now be put into practice with all its consequences. In other words, the competent authorities must be assured the necessary means to effectively report the offence, confiscate the material and destroy the illegal drift nets,” concludes Xavier Pastor.