Eight years after it was banned, in Italy, other types of illegal driftnets are still being used. They end the lives of thousands of cetaceans and turtles each year.
Oceana considers this morning’s surrender of 250 km of illegal driftnets positive. The nets were used to catch swordfish by fishermen from Bagnara Calabra. Even so, the international marine conservation organization underlines that this act does not mean the end of driftnets in Italy. Oceana has reported the activity of hundreds of kilometers of illegal driftnets of vessels in this port for years. This has been done both along the coast and on the high seas by vessels that had collected substantial subsidies to reconvert them.
Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe, has celebrated that at last, after almost a one-year blockade of this port by the coast guard, the fishermen in this bastion of driftnet use have surrendered their nets to be destroyed. However, he added: ”The nets should have been confiscated by the authorities years ago and the subsidies returned. This is not a voluntary return. This port has a longstanding tradition of illegal practices, and we are asking the Administration not to make this into a measure for the media alone and continue the historic permissiveness toward this destructive fishing gear. Driftnets must be completely and permanently done away with.”
The marine conservation organization has reminded us that, even though the ‘spadare’ have been eliminated from Bagnara Calabra, there continue to be ports in Sicily and Calabria where driftnets continue to be used both for catching swordfish and tuna as has been demonstrated year after year. Oceana reported last week that Spain was importing albacore tuna from Italy caught with driftnets in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Xavier Pastor concluded by making a call to the Italian authorities: ”Eight years after the entry into force of the ban and with a judgment by the European Court of Justice against Italy for continuing to use driftnets, it is inadmissible that the Italian Government continues with the permissive policy toward this fishing gear and the fishermen who use it. This situation must be stopped immediately, and not only in the port of Bagnara Calabra.”
In 2008, this port’s vessels became the stars of a report on RAI television station on the illegality of Italian driftnets that has contributed toward finally giving rise to actions against this port.
Note to editor:
Driftnets are a type of fishing gear used to catch various pelagic species. During the 80s and beginning of the 90s, this type of net became popular because of its effectiveness and ease of use, in other words, it does not require any type of specialization because it is a passive gear. However, driftnets bring about the bycatch of thousands and thousands of cetaceans and other endangered species.
These nets can reach a height of 35 meters and length of up to 20 km. In Italy, there are two types of driftnets: the spadara, used to catch swordfish, and the ferrettara, used to catch frigate tuna and albacore.
More than fifteen years have gone by since the United Nations General Assembly established an international moratorium banning the use of these nets and eight since they were banned in the European Union. According to the information available to Oceana, in Spain, driftnets have been replaced by other gear, but hundreds of Italian boats sill use the nets sadly known as “curtains of death” while they receive subsidies by European institutions to reconvert them.