The fishing boat was part of a group of driftnet fishing boats intercepted by Italian authorities to the north of Sicily and the south of Sardinia.
At the start of the season when fleets based out of a variety of Italian ports use illegal spadara and ferratara, the Italian Coast Guard, assisted by aerial surveillance, intercepted some days ago several driftnet fishing boats to the southeast of the island of Stromboli, north of Sicily.
One of the boats captured, the Eliseo, figured in a report entitled “The use of driftnets: A scandal for Europe, a mockery of the United Nations that was presented in protest to the European Commission and Parliament after a campaign last year on board the research catamaran Oceana Ranger. In this report, which listed 37 boats with illegal nets, it was also shown that the Eliseo had received a subsidy of 11,850 euros to remove the illegal nets and replace them with more selective fishing techniques. The owner of the vessel, much like many other owners of this type of boat, simply pocketed the sum and continued to use the nets prohibited by the European Union. This issue is currently under investigation by OLAF, the European anti-fraud office, after being denounced by Oceana.
Driftnet fishing kills thousands of dolphins, sperm whales, sea turtles, sharks and rays in the Mediterranean every year in addition to exhausting the fishing grounds for tuna and swordfish.
The two other drifnet fishing boats, the S. Giacomo and the Madonna de Fatima, were intercepted near to the Eolie Islands to the west of Sardinia. The latter of these two boats has already been detected carrying illegal nets on board by conservation organizations in 2004. The Madonna de Fatima has received 54,875 euros in subsidies to remove its driftnets, but it continues to use them even after being compensated with that sum of money.
Since the beginning of the illegal fishing season, the Italian coast guard has already decommissioned more than 50 kilometers of illegal nets. Half of them are related to this operation.
The Oceana Ranger has already started its 2006 Expedition in the western Mediterranean. It is currently in Italian waters documenting the activities of fleets of driftnet fishing boats bearing the flag of this country. The Ranger will later continue its activities in French waters.