Oceana documents italian tuna purse seiners carrying out fishing activities after the closure of the fishery

Oceana researchers on board the Marviva Med present evidence showing how Italian, Turkish, Tunisian and Libyan vessels continue fishing southeast of the island of Malta.

Press Release Date: December 17, 2013

Location: Madrid


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The early closure of the bluefin tuna fishery came into effect on June 16 for all EU tuna purseiners, except the Spanish fleet. The European Commission prohibited fishing as an emergency measure for the conservation and sustainable exploitation of this resource, as these fleets have repeatedly disregarded the EU Bluefin Tuna Recovery Plan.

As part of its campaign for the protection of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean, the international marine conservation organisation, Oceana, is currently on board the research vessel Marviva Med documenting the activities of bluefin tuna fleets operating south of Malta.

Oceana was able to collect real-time evidence of a fishing operation carried out by the vessels of three different nationalities, 20 miles southeast of Malta and on the same day the fishery was closed. Most of these vessels are linked to the Italian industry. Two old Italian tuna purse seiners currently flying the Libyan flag, the Abr-Albihar and the Abr-Albihar II, were found fishing when Oceana’s vessel reached the area. These vessels were assisted by two industrial Italian purseiners, the Luigi Padre and the Maria Antonietta, during the entire operation, and by another Tunisian vessel, the Essaida Janet. Furthermore, these vessels have been operating in close collaboration with a Turkish support vessel, the Serte Ahmet, which was hauling a collapsible cage and providing supplies to the Italian tuna-fattening farms.

Xavier Pastor,  Executive Director for Oceana Europe and head of the campaign on board the Marviva Med, declared: The presence of Italian tuna purseiners sheds evident doubts on Italy’s compliance with the fishing prohibition. Furthermore, it is obvious that third-country fleets continue fishing for EU vessels in favour of European companies.”

The fleets from third countries, such as Libya or Turkey, are mainly comprised of EU vessels that have been transferred to other companies in order to avoid the control measures implemented in the EU. As such, Libyan vessels can be frequently found in French ports such as Sete, and Turkish vessels can be found operating in Italian tuna-fattening farms.

Xavier Pastor has suggested: “The closing of the fishery does not signal the end of the bluefin tuna catches. The laws continue to be disregarded and mocked. Hundreds of vessels continue fishing, the fattening farms continue receiving catches and the companies that supposedly should have concluded their activities continue obtaining profits while pushing the fishery to the limits of collapse. The anticipated end of the activity, two weeks early, for EU vessels is neither enough, nor real. The bluefin tuna fishery must be urgently and completely closed until the stocks can recover, and the implementation of this decision must be effectively monitored.”