The Rainbow Warrior is currently on a three-month expedition in the Mediterranean, calling for the creation of marine reserves in the region, as part of a global network of protected areas covering 40% of our seas and oceans.
Sebastian Losada filed this report:
The bluefin tuna season doesn't seem to have started yet in the waters that extend off the Libyan coasts. Some catches have already taken place, yes, but just a few compared to the levels we will possibly witness in the coming weeks. Two-hundred purse seiners will try to take as much tuna as they can from the Libyan fishing ground before the fishery is closed on July the 1st. That's why they come to these waters: the last refuge in which an important subpopulation of bluefin tuna still survives.
It's certainly a very special animal. Fast, able to travel thousands of miles in its migrations and could weight up to 700 kg. And it seems to be very demanding with the water temperature, the fact that is now around 22.5 º C in the surface, means it's still a bit cold for the bluefin tuna to come to the surface to spawn. It is there, close to the surface, that it will be easy prey for the purse seining fleets.
While the tuna does not decide to come to the surface, we've had the opportunity to see how the Mediterranean is being left abandoned to the excesses of fishing. Last Sunday we came across a Tunisian fleet of drift netters. They were among clusters of 11 and 13 ships of which we managed to identify seven. The sea was literally covered in nets, to a point that we had to sail in zigzag to avoid them. Driftnets are banned in the Mediterranean Sea since 2004, but this does not stop fishermen from continuing to use them, assisted by Governments that do very little to control their activities.
This gear was prohibited because it is very inefficient. Kilometres and kilometres of nets need to be deployed to catch just a few fish.
Unwanted species such as sharks, marine turtles and dolphins, many of them endangered, will be trapped on the way.
A couple of days ago, some miles East of the point where we found these drift netters, we observed a marine turtle (a loggerhead turtle) making huge efforts to dive. But it was just impossible. Its back fins were entangled in a web of filaments and five little fish floats, probably coming from one of these driftnets. It is an endangered species, whose main problem is precisely its accidental catch in fishing gears.
This one got saved after we put a boat in the water and managed, not without effort, to cut the net. It was just luck that we saw it. Many other turtles will remain drifting in the Mediterranean; victims of the lack of will to make sure the laws that have taken huge efforts to be approved are respected and complied with.