Oceana has documented Greek vessels assisting in Turkish fishing operations and denounces the continued activity of EU vessels after the official closure of the fishery.
Tomorrow the EU Fisheries Ministers will be debating the early closure of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery.
The marine conservation organization, Oceana, is active in the waters south west of Malta, documenting the blue fin tuna fishery in one of the main spawning areas for this species in the Mediterranean basin.
The crew of organisation’s oceanographic vessel, the MarViva Med, observed the fishing operations of a group of Turkish fishing vessels which were accompanied by tug boats with tuna fattening cages. Among this group Oceana observers noted two vessels flying Greek flags, the purse seiner Aigaion and the tug boat Kentavros.
Xavier Pastor, Executive Director for Oceana in Europe and head of the campaign on board the MarViva Med declared: “Despite the emergency closure of the fishery on 16 June, European community purse seiners continue activities at sea, illegally fishing and transshipping. If the vessels are not tied up in port and considering the current crisis caused by high fuel prices, the obvious question that comes to mind is: who goes to sea if not for financial gain?.”
Illegal fishing is common in this area. Several miles away a vessel with no ICCAT authorization, the Habib Reis 4, participated in another operation with Turkish vessels. Earlier this week, the Italian seiner Luigi Padre, which has been prohibited from fishing since the 16 June, carried out a transshipment of its illegal catches to the cage of the Turkish tug boat Serter Ahmet.
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council will deal with fisheries issues tomorrow and among those should be the Commission’s decision to close the Mediterranean purse seine bluefin tuna fishery early, which entered into force on 16 June (23 June for Spanish vessels).
Xavier Pastor concludes: “It is absurd to discuss the closure when the quotas have been exceeded and illegal fishing continues. Moreover, from 1 July the fishery will be closed to all purse seine vessels in the Mediterranean. The attitude of some EU Member States regarding the closure highlights the lack of political will to preserve bluefin tuna stocks and ensure the implementation of the recovery plan in place for this species”.