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Italy Ignores EU Rules And Reintroduces Illegal Drifnets To Catch Tuna

The international marine conservation organization Oceana reports in a press release that the Italian Ministry of Fisheries has given the go ahead for the illegal use of drift nets called ferrettara via an Ambiguous decree.

For the past three years, and once again in May 2009, Oceana has documented how this gear is used daily in different Italian ports to catch prohibited species.

The Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Policy published an Ambiguous decree, earlier this week, which eliminates the limits on distances from the coast for the use of driftnets known as ferrettaras. These nets, which in theory are used to catch small pelagic fish, (sardines, anchovies, etc.), have been authorized with a mesh size of 18 cm so they will catch forbidden species such as swordfish and tuna. Consequently Italian fishermen have been using ferretarra licenses to continue fishing with illegal driftnets, forbidden by the European Union in 2002.

Oceana has been demanding the annulment of the decree authorizing ferretarra use for several years. On 21st May 21st, Oceana observers once again documented the landing of illegal tuna captured with ferrettara from several boats in the Porticello Port near Palermo, where ferrettara licenses represent over 20% of the fleet.

Javier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe stated: “The Italian Government is not only ignoring community regulations, but it has also given in to industry pressure, going even further by institutionalizing this illegality despite the fact that a claim brought against Italy by the European Commission for illegally using this fishing method, is still pending judgment. This could imply a fine of millions of Euros for this country”.

The new decree amendment would mean that boats over 15 meters long using ferrettara could sail, without impunity whatsoever and against a community prohibition, to far off swordfish fishing grounds such as the Sicily Canal or the Ionian Sea.

Xavier Pastor concluded: “This decree simply means the reintroduction of driftnets into Italian legislation several years after the community prohibition was brought into force. The European Union needs to take immediate action”.