Lee Crockett, who directs Atlantic bluefin tuna conservation at the Pew Environment Group, issued this statement today in response to the European Union's announcement that it has begun legal proceedings against Italy for its illegal driftnets use.
“Driftnets are a wasteful, indiscriminate fishing method that has been banned for decades. We applaud the European Union for taking strong action against one of the best documented cases of illegal fishing in the Mediterranean—the Italian fleets' ongoing use of prohibited driftnets to catch endangered bluefin tuna and swordfish.
“The Pew Environment Group now urges the European Union to closely monitor Italy's progress on this issue. If the country fails to take meaningful action, such as banning the use of ferrettare, small scale coastal driftnets, Pew urges the EU to refer this case to the European Court of Justice.
“The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which is responsible for the management of bluefin tuna and swordfish in the Atlantic, banned the use of driftnets to catch these species in 2003. At its upcoming annual meeting in November, Pew urges ICCAT member countries to include all Italian operators that have been identified as using driftnets in violation of the commission's regulations on their illegal fishing vessel list. These concrete steps will help end this wasteful practice.”
EU inspectors conducted investigations this spring and summer in Italian ports. These visits revealed widespread use of illegal driftnets, in plain sight of Italian authorizes. Meaningful measures have yet to be applied to Italian vessel owners to force compliance with driftnet regulations. Read an article on this subject by the Financial Times here.
The EU's infringement procedure against Italy comes just three weeks after the United States and the European Union announced a joint effort to crack down on illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. View the Pew Environment Group's statement on the announcement here.
The annual meeting of ICCAT will take place in Istanbul, Turkey from November 11-19. The Pew Environment Group is urging ICCAT countries to implement an electronic catch documentation scheme for Atlantic bluefin tuna, to address fraud and unreported fishing that continues to plague this fishery.