Greenpeace confronts illegal fishing in the Mediterranean Sea

Press release - July 7, 2008
Activists aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise exposed a pirate vessel fishing with a driftnet in international waters early this morning and retrieved a length of the illegal net. The Arctic Sunrise confronted the fishing vessel Luna Rossa in the Mediterranean Sea, around 40 miles west of the Italian island of Marettimo, off Sicily (1).

The fishing pirates were using a fishing practice that has long been banned by the United Nations and the European Union because of the high level of bycatch including whales, dolphins and turtles (2). Clearly aware of its illegality, the vessel was attempting to hide its registration number to avoid identification and prosecution. When detected by Greenpeace, the fishermen cut their net and steamed away at high speed.

"Driftnets are walls of death, and their continued use is piracy," said Karli Thomas, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner aboard the Arctic Sunrise. "Greenpeace is out on the water exposing these offenders, but the real responsibility for enforcing the driftnets ban and punishing these villains lies with the Italian government and the European Union. For years, Mediterranean governments have continued to condone such piracy when the law has given them a mandate to protect the Mediterranean Sea - that is the real scandal"

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 (3).

"All Mediterranean countries must unite to protect the Sea - to stop illegal fishing and protect this shared resource. Laws without enforcement are worthless, real action is needed to stop the plunder. If we want fish tomorrow, we need marine reserves today," Thomas concluded.

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to drive solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

Other contacts: Alessandro Gianni, oceans campaigner, Greenpeace ItalyPhone +39 340 800 9534Karli Thomas, oceans campaigner, Greenpeace InternationalPhone +31 646 055 298Szabina Mozes, communications officer, Greenpeace InternationalPhone +36 205 155 928Or on board the Arctic Sunrise, phone +31 207 122 616

VVPR info: Greenpeace International Picture Desk:John Novis, phone + 44 780 161 5889Greenpeace International Video Desk:Maarten van Rouveroy, phone +31 646 197 322

Notes: (1) The Luna Rossa, registration number 5RC1058 was in position 37°59.3 N, 011° 10.1 E which is approximately 40 miles west of the Italian island of Marettima off Sicily, Italy.(2) In the 1990's it was estimated that 8 to 29 cetaceans were caught for every 100 casts in the Italian fishery, which gave rise to annual estimates of over 8,000 cetaceans being trapped every year. See:Di Natale A. & G. Notarbartolo di Sciara (1994). A review of the passive fishing nets and trap fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea and of cetacean by catch. International Whaling Commission Report, Special Issue 15:189-202.(3) The Arctic Sunrise is on a three-month expedition; Defending Our Mediterranean. The expedition began in May, and the crew have already confronted Italian driftnet fishing vessels, Turkish purse seiners targeting bluefin tuna, and mapped and documented posidonia seagrass meadows requiring protection in Greece and Libya. For a map of the proposed high seas marine reserves, see "Marine Reserves for the Mediterranean Sea:Report available at www.oceans.greenpeace.org/med-marine-reserves-reportSummary report at www.oceans.greenpeace.org/med-marine-reserves-summary

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