The environmental organisation fears that fish is being transferred illegally on the high seas.
During the Oceana Ranger’s recent expedition in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the crew on board the environmental organisation’s catamaran witnessed an interaction between illegal driftnetters and large purse-seiners congregating around the tuna fattening cages to the north of the Aeolian Islands in Sicily. This situation could well be taking place at other tuna-fattening farms.
Once the driftnetters have finished fishing and pulled in their dozens of kilometres of illegally-cast driftnets in the western Mediterranean, some of them head for the areas where tuna-fattening farms have been established to meet up with the purse-seiners.
Oceana’s researchers have managed to document this suspicious activity from a certain distance using telephoto lenses and video cameras, but are not yet in a position to reach a definitive conclusion on the purpose of their activities.
“We believe this could be an illegal transfer on the high seas of the catches of some vessels to other ones to make them easier to sell”, says Xavier Pastor, the marine biologist in charge of Oceana’s expedition. “Catching tuna and other similar species with driftnets has been banned. However, if illegally-caught fish are transferred over to seiners they can sell them as if they had been caught using authorised methods,” explains Pastor, Director of Oceana Europe.
Oceana has made the Italian authorities aware of these practices and requested that they undertake surveillance and investigation work to clarify any doubts concerning their legality.