Last Friday, the research catamaran Oceana Ranger intercepted two boats using driftnets, which were fishing making use of that gear, which is prohibited by the European Union, and which even violates the contradictory Italian legislation.
The Oceana boat was anchored in the port of Ponza in the late afternoon of last Thursday when it observed the departure of a number of fishing boats which had driftnets on board as well as the accessories necessary for their use: a triple winch at the stern and a number of buoys to mark the line of the net with lights.
At about ten o’clock that night, the Ranger weighed anchor and set off for the 1000 metres depth line, the area where the fleets of illegal fishing boats generally operate. Using the radar, the crew of Oceana detected the presence of a number of boats. The Ranger headed for one of the echoes that showed on the screen and after some time the officer on watch was able to make out through his binoculars the deck lights of the fishing boat and those of the buoys on the net. “Both by means of the measurement by radar and also by sailing in parallel to the net, we were able to determine that the length of the net that was in the water when we detected the fishing boat was at least four kilometres”, said the marine biologist, Carlos Perez, first mate of the Ranger.
At half past eleven at night, the Oceana catamaran and the fishing boat were fifty metres apart, and from the Oceana Ranger it was possible to identify the name of the fishing craft, San Francesco and its registration 2GA 984. At that moment, the distance of the fishing boat from the coast was, according to the Ranger’s radar, 5.4 kilometres.
Once the activity of the San Francesco had been documented with videos and photographs, the Ranger set out for a second objective, which it reached at half past one early on Friday morning. In this case, it was a boat fishing with a net that was almost five kilometres long and which was set at a distance of 7.2 miles from the coast of the island of Ponza. Again the Ranger drew up close in order to document its activity and to identify the boat. This second craft was the Tania with registration 2GA 967.
It turned out that the Tania is one of the fishing boats that had been arrested in this same area the week before by a patrol boat of the Italian Guardia Costiera, and its nets had been confiscated. Hardly a week later, it was again fishing in a prohibited area and with a driftnet.
Moreover, Tania is one of the boats that received subsidies from the European Union to stop using driftnets; specifically it received 27,644 euros, which were apparently pocketed without the illegal nets being replaced by a more selective fishing gear. The recent arrest of the Tania by the Italian Guardia Costiera is a clear indication of its illegal behaviour.
“The insolence with which these boats act, violating not only European but also Italian legislation seems to indicate that the efforts of the Guardia Costiera and the Guarda di Finanza to have the laws obeyed will not have any effect until Italian politicians properly regulate aspects such as the sanctions for the lawbreakers, the loss of licences, storage or destruction of the confiscated nets so that they do not again turn up in the hands of fishermen and the prohibition of carrying on board more than one kind of fishing gear so as to trick the inspectors”, is the view of the oceanographer, Xavier Pastor, the Head of Oceana in Europe and coordinator of the expedition of the Oceana Ranger.
“The European regulations indicate clearly, furthermore, that no boat may carry a prohibited net on board, even if the shipowner states that he has no intention of using it. This community legislation cannot continue to be ignored in Italy. The authorities must confiscate any illegal net that they see on a boat. At sea and in port”, concludes Xavier Pastor.
Oceana contacted Almirante Dassati, the commandant general of the Italian Guardia Costiera, so as to give him all the information gathered by the organisation and to offer the graphic documentation of the activities of these fishing boats.