Oceana criticises the failure of EU Fisheries Ministers to stamp down on illegal driftnet fishing in the Mediterranean

Oceana calls for urgent measures to be taken to halt this illegal and highly damaging fishing method and welcomes the intervention by the UK Fisheries Minister urging his European colleagues to take action.

Press Release Date: August 22, 2013

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Today the Council of EU Fisheries Ministers put off agreement on legislation defining a driftnet, which would have closed a loophole in the EU law banning their use, enabling many vessels to flout the ban. Oceana calls on Ministers to agree this legislation by the end of June and also to take other urgent measures to put an end to illegal driftnet fishing.

“While half hearted decisions are taken by European Fisheries Ministers on tuna and other species, illegal EU driftnet vessels continue to fish for tuna and swordfish, undermining attempts to conserve dwindling fish stocks” says Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana for Europe. “Ministers are making decisions based on national and short term political needs, closing their eyes to the reality of what is happening on our seas. Illegal driftnetters are making a mockery of EU law”.

For the third consecutive year, Oceana’s research catamaran, the Oceana Ranger, is in the Mediterranean, identifying, documenting and reporting vessels engaged in illegal driftnet activities. Oceana also has observers on land, identifying vessels with driftnets on board in ports and observing landings of fish from driftnet vessels.

Initial findings include that:

  • The driftnet ban continues to be widely flouted 5 years after it entered into force. 67 French and over 50 Italian illegal vessels were identified on shore and at sea.
  • The average engine power of a number of the vessels observed exceeds that expected for an artisanal fishery.
  • Vessels constructed as recently as 2004 were found with driftnets on board, that is 2 years after the EU driftnet ban came into effect.
  • In Italy, Oceana has discovered that many of the illegal vessels denounced by Oceana in 2005 and 2006 continue to operate, despite the alleged increased controls by Italy.

As well as agreeing the so-called Driftnet Definition Regulation to close the loophole, Oceana is also calling for the EU Member States to improve ineffective control regimes which fail to crack down on driftnets and other illegal fishing gear and also to ensure that no European taxpayers’ money finances illegal fishing activity.

Xavier Pastor adds: “It is now over 5 years since the driftnet ban came into force and we are still seeing many vessels openly fishing with these illegal nets. I amhappy to see at least one Minister taking a stance and a positive response by Commissioner Borg. But it should be 27 Fishing Ministers standing up and taking a zero tolerance approach to illegal fishing activities”.