Oceana estimates that over 500 vessels have operated illegally in the Mediterranean, some with nets up to 20 kilometres long.
Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, calls for a Mediterranean free of drift nets for 2011, and urges all Member States to take a zero tolerance position on this type of destructive fishing gear. For years, Oceana has documented and reported a number of vessels, and Turkey (along with Morocco) has now taken the steps to prohibit driftnets next year. Oceana welcomes these advances but remains sceptical because the laws prohibiting the use of this gear have been consistently ignored for almost two decades.
After the UN approved the moratorium in 1992, driftnets were banned by the EU, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM). The use of this gear has since been largely eradicated in the EU and only Italy insists on using it, despite its dangerous impact on populations of endangered species.
It is estimated that over 10,000 cetaceans, 100,000 endangered sharks and thousands of turtles have been trapped by driftnets each year. Oceana estimates that over 500 vessels have operated illegally in the Mediterranean, some with nets up to 20 kilometres long.
Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe, states: “After years of delay in the application of the laws, the intentional introduction of legal loopholes and a complete lack of control, 2011 must mark the definitive end of these illegal nets, without any type of ambiguity, so fisheries management in the Mediterranean can finally advance”.
Turkey recently announced it will prohibit driftnets, without exception, starting 1 July 2011. Oceana welcomes this prohibition, especially because the organisation identified and reported at least 30 Turkish vessels using this gear in the Aegean and Mediterranean to target swordfish and bonito in 2009. The number of vessels operating with this gear in Turkey is estimated between 70 and 150.
However, Oceana has expressed its concern to the Turkish government, because the law could create a legal loophole that would allow the continued use of this gear to target swordfish and bonito.
The Kingdom of Morocco prohibited the use of driftnets in August of this year, and the measure will enter into effect in 2011. Oceana has also reported the Moroccan fleet for its continued use of driftnets. This fleet has seriously affected endangered species in the Alboran Sea and the Straits of Gibraltar, where it also shares fishing grounds with the Spanish longline fleet, competing under unfair conditions.
Morocco has benefited from various delays in the application of international legislation and both the EU and the U.S. have invested millions of Euros to halt the use of this illegal fishing gear. As such, Oceana stresses the need to monitor the fleet undergoing conversion and ensure that the driftnets are not sold to third countries, like Algeria, so as to prevent the continued use of this illegal fishing gear in the Mediterranean.
After the EU prohibited these nets in 2002, some countries, like France and Italy, continued using them. Italy is the last country in Europe still using this illegal gear, which is sometimes camouflaged under the legal name of “ferrettara”. In 2010, Oceana observers confirmed that the port of Bagnara Calabra, which had turned over 250 km of illegal nets in June, was still using the gear despite the fact that a number of vessels had already been converted for longlining.
Driftnets are a type of fishing gear used to target various pelagic species. During the 80s and beginning of the 90s, this type of net became popular because it is effective and easy to use; it is a passive gear that does not require any degree of specialisation. However, driftnets produce a bycatch of thousands and thousands of cetaceans and other endangered species.
 Artículo 4 de la Notificación 2/1 del 10 de julio del Ministerio de Agricultura de la República de Turquía. http://www.tarim.com.tr/haber/haberdetay.asp?ID=15199
 Boletín Oficial No. 5866. 18 agosto 2010.