Rainbow Warrior prevents illegal fishing ship's escape

Italian authorities seize catch and driftnets

Press release - 27 July, 2009
Italian marine authorities have confiscated 15 kilometres of driftnets and an illegal catch of 30 bluefin tuna and swordfish from the Italian fishing vessel Frederica II, yesterday. The vessel had tried to flee, but the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, kept it in sight until the Coast Guard’s arrival.

The crew of the Rainbow Warrior located the Frederica II (1) earlier in the day and reported its location to the authorities after documenting the existence of illegal driftnets onboard.

"Driftnet fishing involves a high level of by-catch - including whales, dolphins and turtles (2)," said Alessandro Gianni, Greenpeace Italy Oceans campaigner. "Driftnets have long been banned by both the UN and the European Union, so it is a disgrace that they are still being put to use in the Mediterranean Sea."

 The inspection - at the harbour of Pantelleria, in the Sicilian Channel - also uncovered the existence of longline, fishing equipment. According to the EU's online Fleet Register, the Frederica II is only licensed to fish by bottom trawling. The driftnets and longline, together with the catch of 16 swordfish and 14 bluefin tunas - some of which were undersized juveniles - were confiscated in the presence of Greenpeace.

That this vessel has been found carrying illegal driftnets without a licence, and catching bluefin tuna without a quota is unfortunately representative of what is wrong with marine management in the Mediterranean today," added Gianni.

"If we want fish tomorrow, we need marine reserves today. The Sicilian Channel is an important area that needs full protection as part of a regional network of marine reserves. Given the dire state of tuna stocks, it is also time to give the species trade protection under CITES."

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 Rainbow Warrior is currently in the Mediterranean documenting threats to the sea and promoting the designation of marine reserves (4).

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 9534• Richard Page, Oceans campaigner – Greenpeace International Phone: +44 14 32 880911• Yesim Aslan, Communications OfficerMediterranean Marine Reserves ProjectGSM: 00 90 532 316 73 65• On board the Rainbow Warrior: +31 20 712 2675

VVPR info: Greenpeace International Picture Desk: John Novis, phone + 44 780 161 5889 Greenpeace International Video Desk: Lucy Campbell-Jackson, phone + 31 634 73 8790

Notes: (1) The Frederica II, registration number 7PA1860 and with harbour of origin at Porticello, near Palermo, was just off Punta Limarsi (southern coast of Pantelleria), approximately 250 km from Palermo.

(2) In the 1990s it was estimated that between 8 and 29 cetaceans were caught for every 100 casts in the Italian fishery, giving 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) Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). CITES contracting parties will meet in Doha, Qatar, 13-25 March 2010.

(4) The Rainbow Warrior is on a three-month expedition, “Defending Our Mediterranean”. The expedition began in June 2009, and the crew has already monitored the end of the purse seine fishing season in the central Mediterranean to ensure that the closure of the fishery was properly enforced. Greenpeace also conducted an action against bunkering activities in the marine protected area of the Gibraltar/Algeciras Bay on July 13. 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