The European Union is about to close the legal loopholes that allow the use of driftnets in France

The definition of a driftnet, to be included in a new Regulation approved by the European Parliament yesterday during a plenary session, will stipulate that the addition of a floating anchor to one end of net does not make this gear legal; driftnets are b

Press Release Date: August 21, 2013

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana congratulates the Euro MPs for approving this definition and hopes for the quick approval by the European Union Council of Fisheries Ministers.

Driftnets constitute an indiscriminate fishing method, banned by the General Assembly of the United Nations, by the European Union in 2002 and by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) in 2005. Its use leads to the accidental capture and death of thousands of cetaceans, marine turtles, sharks and marine birds.

During the summer of 2006, Oceana observers travelled to various ports on the French Mediterranean coast in order to verify the number of vessels that continue to use driftnets in that country, four years after their prohibition. As a result, the report Thonaille: The use of driftnets by the French fleet in the Mediterranean was produced. The extensive dissemination of this report amongst decision-making groups has actively contributed to the approval of this definition.

Although fishermen claim it is a fixed net, the “thonaille” is actually a driftnet used to capture bluefin tuna and can reach up to 9 kilometres in length. Groups of shipowners and the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries have found a loophole by adding a floating anchor to one end of the gear to elude the prohibition. “If it has an anchor, it is not a driftnet”, was the opinion of French shipowners, despite the French State Council’s opposition to this definition. The new definition approved by the European Parliament will cover this device and, as such, will leave no room for doubt as to the illegality of this gear. According to the Euro MPs, the floating anchor does not imply the “thonaille” is something other than a drift net, and as such it is absolutely prohibited by European legislation. 

The approval of this definition constitutes a step forward for the administration to eliminate a fishing tackle that is damaging to the marine environment declared Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe, adding that “it is time to face almost five years of inefficiency in applying the measures necessary to make this prohibition effective”.

The vote in the European Parliament was based on a report presented by Rosa Mígueléz, the Spanish socialist Euro MP, which clearly and concisely analyzed the weak points and legal loopholes apparent in the existing prohibition of this tackle.

Xavier Pastor trusts that “the European Council of Fisheries Ministers will approve this new regulation as efficiently as the Parliament”.

According to the results of the investigations carried out by Oceana in 2005 and 2006, more than 71 Italian and 37 French vessels still continued to use these driftnets with complete impunity by the end of last year. For more information about the results of the campaign carried out by Oceana against the use of driftnets: