Today, the EU Commission called on Italy to take immediate action to effectively enforce the driftnet ban and control its fleet. Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, welcomes this long-awaited announcement, and urges the EU to extend its commitment to ensure compliance with the driftnet ban to the entire Mediterranean basin, including Morocco and Turkey.
“The continued use of driftnets by the Italian fleet represents almost 20 years of infringement, subsidies fraud, and passive stance of Italian authorities. It is also another clear symptom of the mismanagement and lack of control in Mediterranean fisheries,” stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “The message from the Commission is extremely welcomed as it shows their unwavering determination to eradicate this gear. It is our hope that this commitment be reflected in international for a for third country fleets.”
Since 2005, Oceana has undertaken research at sea and in ports identifying and denouncing the use of illegal driftnets in Italy. The research revealed that a large number of vessels, despite having been largely subsidized to convert to more sustainable fishing gear, have continued to use driftnets over the years, and were only occasionally sanctioned with low-non deterrent fines. Loopholes in the regulation have allowed many vessels to keep using driftnets, by using smaller mesh sizes and targeting albacore, also a forbidden species. Oceana however, unveiled abuse of these loopholes and has alerted the Commission and Spanish Government of illegal catches of Italian albacore entering Spanish markets – an unfair burden on fishermen who choose to fish legally and sustainably.
About driftnets in the Mediterranean
After the EU prohibited these nets in 2002, some countries, like France and Italy, continued using them. Italy is now the last country in Europe still using this illegal gear, which is sometimes camouflaged under the legal name of “ferrettara”. Other Mediterranean countries such as Morocco and Turkey also harbor fleets that use this gear.
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 of cetaceans and other endangered species.
Read the report Adrift! Swordfish and driftnets in the Mediterranean Sea