Illegal Fishing: Driftnets
Driftnets are a type of fishing gear used to catch various pelagic species. During the 80s and the beginning of the 90s, this type of gear became popular due to its effectiveness and easy use.
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Stopping Illegal Driftnets
Oceana issued a report to the European Commission and the general public on the continued use of illegal driftnets in the Mediterranean. This report is the last of a series resulting from years of Oceana work against the use of this illegal fishing gear and the fraud in subsidies. Oceana’s efforts contributed toward a judgment against Italy for the lack of control in the use of this illegal fishing gear. The European Union Court of Justice found Italy in breach of EU law for continuing to use driftnets, despite the ban on this gear in 2002. Separately, Oceana’s research has pushed for the reimbursement of subsidies intended to finance the conversion of driftnets fraudulently used by the fleet. Oceana’s report showed that 73 of 92 Italian vessels photographed with driftnets on board had been previously identified for conversion. To date, Italy has returned 7.7 million euros due to cases of fraud in subsidies for reconverting driftnet vessels.
The European Court of Justice formally ruled against France for its failure to control the illegal use by its fleet of driftnets in the Mediterranean.
The Court also formally denied France’s request to consider future exemptions for its fleet from the EU driftnet ban. In Italy, the Calabrian prosecutor formally charged several driftnetters for illegal activities and has since kept them ashore under house arrest.
Banning Mediterranean driftnetting
After Oceana showed that some fishing ships continued to use illegal fishing gear, the European Court of Justice rejected further requests by the French government for exemptions from the EU ban on driftnetting in the Mediterranean Sea. This ruling spares 25,000 juvenile bluefin tuna caught annually in the driftnets, along with thousands of other types of marine animals, including whales, dolphins, other marine mammals, seabirds and countless species of fish and sealife.
Italy closes loopholes on illegal driftnetters
Two months after Oceana presented its findings to ACCOBAMS, a scientific organization devoted to the protection of dolphins, whales and other cetaceans in European seas, the Italian Attorney General announced new efforts to crack down on illegal driftnetting by declaring it illegal for vessels to carry driftnets on board regardless of whether or not they are being used when detected. Driftnets often incidentally kill marine mammals, sharks and other species.