Last Monday morning a fleet of French fishing boats attacked the Oceana Ranger research vessel for filming their illegal activities.
Tons of endangered bluefin tuna are captured every year using fishing practices banned by the European Union and the United Nations.
Despite the harassment, threats and attacks inflicted on the Oceana Ranger vessel by the French driftnetting fleet, known as thonaillers, Oceana has managed to circulate images showing that this fleet of dozens of French fishing boats are using nets that have been banned to catch endangered species such as bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus). The attack took place on Monday May 21st, 25 miles south of Saint Raphael.
Over the last two years, France has exceeded its fishing quotas for the capture of bluefin tuna. A portion of these catches are made by a fishing fleet that uses driftnets ranging from 3 to 8 kilometres in length in the Gulf of León.
Oceana has witnessed in situ that French driftnetters are prepared to resort to violence to avoid pictures, showing their operations in the Mediterranean using nets banned by the EU and the UN, falling into the hands of European fisheries ministers and the general public.
The pictures distributed by Oceana not only depict the attacks and the threats inflicted, but also show bluefin tuna catches, including juveniles.
At the next meeting of the European Union fisheries ministers, an attempt will be made to agree on a total ban on these driftnets, which, owing to the leniancy of certain governments and legal loopholes, continue to be used by some European fleets, despite the moratorium decreed by the United Nations in the 1990´s and an EU directive prohibiting their use in 2002.
“When being observed becomes a nuisance to a fishing fleet, it means they are doing something they are not very proud of. It´s obvious that the practices of the French driftnetting fleet are not legit, which is why they did everything possible to hide their activities” declared Xavier Pastor, Director of the campaign on board the Oceana Ranger.
The other large fishing fleet using illegal nets in EU waters is that of Italy. But while the French authorities have decided to look the other way, despite the ruling of the National Council, the highest court in the country, that these nets violate European legislation, the Italian government has seized over 60 kilometres of illegal nets so far this year and has committed itself to not allow this challenge to the legal system.
Oceana asks that Sarkozy’s new government put its own principle of zero tolerance towards lawbreakers into effect, and that it introduces every possible measure to avoid fishing piracy from becoming established in Europe.
More information is available at:”Thonaille”: the use of driftnets by the French Mediterranean Fleet
Video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDk71Oo3uJQ