Report | May 3, 2010

“Thonaille”: the use of driftnets by the French fleet in the Mediterranean

The use of driftnets has been prohibited in European union waters and on the high seas by EU flagged vessels since 2002 and since 2005 in the Mediterranean Sea by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM). This fishing activity, however, persists in community waters and by EU flagged vessels on the high seas, completely disregarding current legislation, by countries such as Italy and France, and with a certain degree of support form the relevant national authorities.

Currently, a proposal for a Council Regulation concerning the sustainable management of fisheries resources in the Mediterranean has been approved by the EU Member States, separately a Commission proposal for a Regulation introducing a driftnet definition has been presented. These two Regulations should clearly determine that the use of all kind of driftnet for the capture of prohibited species be considered as Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing.

As part of its 2006 campaign against the use of driftnets in the Mediterranean, Oceana inspected various ports along the French Mediterranean coast in order to personally verify the characteristics and activities of the fleet dedicated to the capture of bluefin tuna with gear known as “thonaille” or “courantille volante“.

With this goal in mind, 27 French ports were inspected and a total of 37 vessels documented, 20 of which are mentioned in this report. Oceana has not been able to ascertain any difference between the so-called “thonaille” net and any of the other driftnets used in the Mediterranean. In the majority of cases, the nets found aboard the vessels greatly exceeded the maximum length authorised by European legislation for this fishing gear, reaching an estimated length of 10 kilometres on one occasion.

Oceana proposes various measures to be adopted within the framework of the Mediterranean Regulation and the driftnet definition Regulation, reflecting the organisation’s position concerning the use of driftnets, in order to contribute to the definitive elimination of this fishing gear in both European and Mediterranean waters.