In 2006, the marine research and conservation organization, Oceana, undertook a campaign against the use with driftnets in the Mediterranean. Investigators documented swordfish fisheries carried out by Moroccan vessels with driftnets in waters of the Alboran Sea, and the presence of this destructive fishing gear in Moroccan ports.
Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe said: “This news by the Moroccan government is encouraging because the adoption of this law finally materializes the commitment they made in 2004 at ICCAT in order to eliminate the use of this fishing gear by 2009”.
This plan will be supported with European funds within the framework of the EU’s fishing agreement with Morocco, and Spanish maritime surveillance will play an important role because the vessels often fish illegally in Spanish jurisdictional waters. For example, the Moroccan driftnetter Zidni, caught fishing in Spanish waters of the Alboran Sea last May, had already been graphically documented by Oceana in the same area in August of last year.
Xavier Pastor has suggested: “Another point in need of strong reinforcement, if this plan is to be successful, is to end the importation of illegally caught swordfish. Ninety-five percent of the swordfish caught by the Moroccan driftnetter fleet is imported into Spain and distributed throughout Europe by Spanish companies”, and he concludes that “strong and unrestricted market demand seriously threatens the viability of the reconversion plan, and Spain holds much of the responsibility for this”.
According to Oceana, their Oceana Ranger research catamaran will continue with surveillance and documentation work during the next few years in the Alboran Sea and the Straits of Gibraltar until they obtain evidence proving that driftnets have been completely eliminated from the Moroccan fleet.
Oceana has photographic and video images of Moroccan driftnetters while fishing, and of the presence of dozens of them in the ports of Nador, Alhucemas and Tangiers. The results of the 2006 campaign are included in the report: The use of driftnets by the Moroccan fleet