Oceana is documenting the use of illegal driftnets off the coasts of the Italian island Ponza and in the south Tyrrhenian sea on board the Marviva Med.
The ferrettara is a type of driftnet considered legal by the Italian government and authorised to catch small pelagic and demersal species. In reality, however, the Italian government authorised the use of this gear 10 miles from the coast and with a mesh size of 18 cm, which implies that the catch is comprised of species prohibited by the EU, such as bluefin tuna and swordfish, and that the bycatch is comprised of protected species, such as cetaceans and sea turtles.
For a few years, Oceana has carried out an active campaign to enforce compliance with the international prohibition on the use of driftnets, a fishing gear used to catch swordfish and tuna species that was banned by the EU in 2002. This week, the research vessel Marviva Med is in the Tyrrhenian Sea documenting the use of this illegal fishing gear. The Island of Ponza is one of the places inspected and documented by Oceana. Driftnets were regularly used here before the prohibition and today, fishing vessels continue illegally fishing for swordfish with ferrettara that is various kilometers in length.
Last Friday, the courts of the Italian region of Lazio approved an appeal filed by WWF Italia against a decree that increased the tolerance to these driftnets, which would have allowed them to be used to fish up to 18 miles from the coast. The consequences of this decree did not only include an increase in the bycatch of cetaceans and sea turtles; they implied the maintenance and increase of a fishery focused on catching swordfish and tuna species, which have been prohibited by EU legislation since 2002.
According to Xavier Pastor, Executive Director for Oceana in Europe: “Both the WWF initiative and the regional court’s decision have finally put an end to this nonsense and to a decree that directly challenged current EU legislation. However, there is still much to be done. Calabria, Campania, Lazio and Sicily constitute the areas where illegal driftnets have always been used, and where ferrettara is also used. Ferrettara, in the majority of the cases and conditions in which it is used, is exactly the same as the driftnets banned by the EU. That is why Oceana insists that the Italian government must repeal the decree that authorises the use of this fishing gear and that the European Commission must increase the pressure exerted on Italy so that this country complies with EU legislation.”
Oceana presented its report, "Italian driftnets: the continuance of illegal fishing. Oceana Campaign Report 2007" in Rome, last June 9, which details the general issues regarding the Italian driftnets known as spadare and ferrettara.