The reports presented today by the international marine conservation organisation in Brussels include updated information on the use of illegal driftnets in Italy and France.
In 2007, Oceana identified more than 100 vessels using illegal driftnets.
Oceana presented two reports in Brussels today: “Italian driftnets: the illegal fishing activities continue” and “Thonaille: the use of driftnets by the French fleet in the Mediterranean”. Both reports condemn the continued use of this illegal fishing gear by the French and Italian fleets in the Mediterranean and propose measures to be adopted for its elimination, 6 years after these nets were banned.
During Oceana’s 2007 campaign, a total of 137 vessels associated with the use of these nets were identified. In Italy's case, many of the vessels have received subsidies for conversion to other fishing methods, although they continue to use the illegal gear. The documents presented by Oceana facilitate the analysis of the fleet and the causes that have led to the continued practice of this illegal activity in spite of the conversion plans, EU funding and a variety of measures adopted to avoid it.
During the press conference, the international marine conservation organisation stressed the current context of EU fishery policies. A new regulation is being negotiated within this framework concerning illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, as well as new measures to improve control over fishing activities in the EU. The current fishery policies have obviously failed to guarantee the application of the current legislation.
Maria José Cornax, marine scientist for the international organisation, affirmed: “When discussing illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, we tend to imagine distant fishing grounds and vessels flying flags of convenience. We don’t realise that the use of driftnets constitutes an IUU fishing activity carried out by our own fleet”. Regarding control measures, she added: “Based on the analysis of the data obtained in the field and the causes that have led the 137 vessels to continue using this illegal fishing gear, Oceana proposes a series of recommendations applicable to the Mediterranean fleets”.
Most of the measures proposed by Oceana are included within the control regime of EU fishery policies. Examples of the proposals suggested by the marine conservation organisation, whose objective is the complete elimination of the use of driftnets in the Mediterranean, include real inspections in fishing ports, real application of “blue boxes” or Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), the application of sanctions that are dissuasive enough to avoid the repetition of the infraction, and the returning of subsidies received in the case of fraud.
Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana Europe, concluded: “The continued use of driftnets by the European fleet, 6 years after the ban came into effect, puts into question the whole framework of EU fishery policies, and constitutes a clear example of the immediate need to implement new control measures adapted to the reality of the fishing activities that guarantee compliance with current legislation.”
Oceana actively campaigns against the use of driftnets in the Mediterranean. These nets can reach thirty metres in height and various kilometres in length, constituting an insurmountable wall for a wide variety of marine species, including endangered species such as cetaceans, turtles and sharks. For this reason, the United Nations General Assembly established an international moratorium on the use of this fishing gear in 1992. The use of these nets was banned in the EU in 2002 to capture species such as swordfish, bluefin tuna or dolphinfish.
More than 500 vessels, however, continue using driftnets in the Mediterranean, by countries including Italy, France, Morocco or Turkey. Each year, Oceana monitors the activities of these fleets, both in port and on the high seas.
Oceana has videos and photographs documenting illegal driftnetters.
You can access the reports online: “Italian driftnets: the illegal fishing activities continue” and “Thonaille: the use of driftnets by the French fleet in the Mediterranean”.