Activists aboard our ship Arctic Sunrise confronted an illegal vessel, the Luna Rossa, fishing with a driftnet this morning in international waters west of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. The Luna Rossa’s crew immediately cut the net and fled from our ship at high speed.
The pirate fishing vessel, Luna Rossa, cut off its illegal driftnet and fled from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise.
Driftnets - described as "walls of death" because of the way in which they indiscriminately snare not just their target species, but everything in their path - killing whales, dolphins and turtles in addition to other marine life, have been banned by the United Nations and the European Union. Our activists retrieved the illegal net and we reported the vessel to the relevant authorities in Italy and the European Union - though so far with no response.
They can run but they can't hide
Fortunately, the helicopter on the Arctic Sunrise has been repaired - it was damaged when the ship was attacked by Turkish fishermen a few weeks ago - and so we were able to catch up with the Luna Rossa to get its name and number, despite the crew's attempts to hide this information from us with tarpaulin, buoys and footballs!
They were clearly unimpressed about Greenpeace turning up as they were hauling their illegal catch. They made rude gestures, exposed their buttocks and hurled abuse at our activists over the radio.
No time for talking
The Arctic Sunrise is exposing these pirates but the real responsibility for enforcing the driftnet ban lies with the Italian government and the European Union. Yet Mediterranean governments continue to turn a blind eye to these activities, essentially condoning the crimes and failing in their mandate to protect the Mediterranean Sea from such acts.
Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves covering 40% of our oceans as an essential way to protect our seas from the ravages of climate change, to restore the health of fish stocks, and protect ocean life from habitat destruction and collapse.
As part of this campaign, the Arctic Sunrise is currently in the Mediterranean documenting threats to the sea and promoting the designation of marine reserves. Our three-month expedition - "Defending Our Mediterranean" - began in May, and we have already confronted Italian driftnet fishing vessels and Turkish purse seiners targeting bluefin tuna. We have also mapped and documented seagrass meadows requiring protection in Greece and Libya.
The Mediterranean Sea is in crisis and the industry is fishing itself to death. Swordfish stocks are dwindling, and driftnets go on reaping a deadly bycatch. Bluefin tuna is set to share the same fate as cod in the north Atlantic, and vital fish breeding and feeding areas like seagrass meadows continue to be destroyed.
We are urging all Mediterranean countries to unite and protect their sea - to stop illegal fishing and preserve their shared marine resources. Laws without enforcement are worthless. It's time to stop talking about protection and start taking real action to stop the plunder. If we want fish for the future, we need marine reserves now.