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French Tuna Fishermen Board Greenpeace Ship For "Peaceful" Talks

In the most recent chapter of the Mediterranean tuna wars, the French tuna fishermen's organisation on Friday met environmental campaigners Greenpeace aboard the famous flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, in the port of Marseille.

Three years after hostilities in which Mediterranean tuna fishermen surrounded the Rainbow Warrior, forcing it to anchor off the coast of Marseille, the Syndicat des thoniers méditerranéens (STM) has been welcomed aboard the ship for peaceful talks.

The meeting, which got started at 10.30am French time amid handshakes between the two sides, lasted for two hours. On the agenda was the controversial fishing of blue fin tuna in the Mediterranean, which experts say is threatening the species.

Francois Chartier, of Greenpeace France, said the organisation was delighted that a fresh dialogue has started.

“This first formal meeting is a necessary step towards a constructive dialogue,” he said.

This relative smoothing of relations contrasts sharply with the last time the Rainbow Warrior was in the region. At the end of 2006 more than 20  industrial tuna vessels formed a blockade and prevented the ship from entering the port of Marseille. French authorities then towed the ship from the country’s territorial zone.

But Greenpeace still warns against the “risk of short-term collapse” of the available stocks of blue fin tuna. “Scientists recommend catching 15,000 tons of tuna, but the real level, if we take illegal fishing into account, is 60,000 tons,” said Chartier.

In reaction, the STM president, Mourad Kahoul, invited Greenpeace representatives to board industrial tuna vessels.

"Let us discuss this, instead of talking rubbish,” he said. "There have been claims for three years that there is no more fish, and yet every day we keep finding fish. It does not make sense."