The two conservation organisations have criticised the Italian government’s support of an illegal fishing fleet and the fraudulent use of European subsidies.
Oceana and Marevivo presented the report, "Italian drift nets: the illegal fishing activities continue," in Rome this morning. The report analyses the Italian fleet's use of this fishing gear and proposes recommendations for its complete elimination. During more than 3 years of campaigns, Oceana has identified vessels that have received subsidies for a total of more than €900,000 for conversion to other fishing gear.
Both organisations made a call to the Italian government during the press conference to eliminate the use of this illegal fishing gear, which was banned six years ago and has caused the deaths of thousands of cetaceans in Italian waters.
During the event, Rosalba Giugni, president of the Italian organisation Marevivo, declared: "Driftnets constitute the main threat for the conservation of cetaceans, sea turtles and sharks in the Mediterranean. In Italy, approximately 8,000 cetaceans are caught and killed each year by this fishing gear. The fact that these nets are still being used years after they were banned is simply unacceptable."
Oceana took advantage of the presentation to present some of the results obtained during the observations carried out in ports in May, 2008. The international marine conservation organisation wanted to call attention to Bagnara Calabra, an emblematic port regarding the conversion of Italian driftnets. This fleet has received economic aid to develop reasonable fishing activities, totalling more than €3.5M in European subsidies, for the conversion to legal fishing gear, as well as for the construction, modernisation and dismantling of vessels. However, the fleet ignores the laws and continues fishing illegally but unpunished with driftnets known as spadare.
The report also analyses the legal loophole regarding ferrettara, a fishing gear authorised by the Italian government which is used as an illegal driftnet, according to the EU, to catch prohibited species such as swordfish and various tuna-like species. Last June 3, the Italian government extended the use of ferrettara to the driftnetters of Ponza, allowing them to fish out to 18 miles from the coast. One of Oceana’s requests is to repeal the decree that authorises the use of ferrettara, as it goes against Community legislation.
Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana Europe, has commented on this fact: “the nets, known as “walls of death,” continue being used by vessels implicated in the illegal fishing of swordfish and tuna. These vessels have carried out one of the most famous frauds in the sector. Unpunished and unsupervised, the nets continue in their possession, and the Italian government listens to their requests.” He concluded: “Drift nets are not the only problem with Italy’s chaotic fisheries, but they are representative of the situation. When is the Italian government finally going to act forcefully in ports such as Bagnara to guarantee the application of EU regulations?”
You can access the reports online: “Italian driftnets: the illegal fishing activities continue”