Morocco officially phased out driftnets in 2010 with funding from the EU and US
Oceana today revealed that the illegal use of driftnets to capture swordfish has returned to Tangiers, Morocco. Evidence gathered by the international marine conservation organization over the past three days, shows small-scale vessels acting in coordination with larger ones with absolute impunity to capture swordfish in the Gibraltar Strait.
Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe calls for strong action: “Driftnet fishing has been banned since 1992 by United Nations General Assembly, and since 2003 by ICCAT. In 2010, Morocco still used this gear but strong international pressure led to a phase-out one year later. It is now clear that vessels have resumed illegal fishing right in front of Moroccan authorities. How long is this mockery going to last? We don’t need more words against the use of driftnets, we need real action from authorities at all levels to stop illegal driftnetting now.”
The Spanish fishing industry has already called on Spanish and EU leadership[i] for action against swordfish illegally caught with driftnets being imported into Spain and re-exported into Italy by land, sinking prices of locally and legally fished swordfish. According to Oceana information first sale prices of swordfish in Morocco stand at 5 eur/kg, while in Italy, it could cost more than 15 eur/kg[ii], making this illegal business profitable for intermediaries. Undersized swordfish is also sold locally in Tangiers.
Ilaria Vielmini, marine scientist at Oceana adds: “Both for traditional and cultural reasons, Italy is one of the main EU countries fishing and importing swordfish. Oceana is calling on relevant administrations to close the EU border to these illegally captured fish, and take appropriate action against Morocco to stop this unsustainable fishing practice. Inspection services on land should seize all fish showing evidence of being captured with this illegal fishing gear”.
It is also worth noting that driftnets, although banned by ICCAT in the Mediterranean Sea since 2003, are still allowed for ICCAT Contracting Parties in the Atlantic Ocean. Oceana is calling for ICCAT to adopt a full and unconditional driftnet ban for the capture of highly migratory species.
Driftnets are a type of fishing gear used to target various pelagic species. During the 1980s and the early 1990s, this type of net became popular because it is effective and easy to use. Driftnets are highly damaging to the marine environment, because their use results in the by-catch of thousands of cetaceans and other endangered species.
In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly established an international moratorium prohibiting driftnets longer than 2.5 km. After the EU prohibited these nets in 2002, some countries, such as France and Italy, continued using them. Italy was the last country in Europe still using this illegal gear, which has been often camouflaged under the legal name of “ferrettara”. Morocco and Turkey announced that they would ban driftnets as from 2011.
Learn more: Driftnets