Oceana welcomes French government recognition of the illegality of driftnets, 5 years after they were banned

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In a press release, the French Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Michel Barnier, has raised the possibility of a conversion of the illegal French driftnet fleet which operates in the Mediterranean to other fishing gear.


January 23, 2008
Madrid
Contact:
Marta Madina ( mmadina@oceana.org )




Driftnets, banned since 2002 in the waters of the European Union and by the Community fleet, have continued to be used illegally by several EU Member States including France and Italy. In the case of France, the fleet has taken advantage of a legal vacuum created by the lack of a definition of what constitutes a driftnet and continued to catch juvenile bluefin tuna.

In June 2007 an EU Regulation was agreed, introducing a comprehensive definition of a driftnet, thus closing the loophole previously exploited by the fishermen and forcing the French government to take measures to halt their activity.

Oceana calls on the French government to act according to the EU regulation and to adopt the following measures before the next bluefin tuna fishing season begins:

-          To introduce an obligatory reconversion plan for the fleet using driftnets, or thonaillers.

-          To withdraw the case before the European Court of Justice which calls for a derogation from the driftnet ban for the French fleet

-          To apply zero tolerance and control of fishing activity to ensure that this gear is not used during the next bluefin tuna fishing season.

Oceana welcomes the Minister’s suggestion that the French reconversion initiative is to be studied and developed by scientists from Ifremer (French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea), as this should help ensure that the conversion of the fleet does not lead to an unsustainable increase in effort on other fisheries in the Mediterranean.

Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana Europe stated: Oceana has for a number of years been observing the illegal activities of the French thonaille fleet. We hope that during our investigations in ports and on the water during 2008 we will no longer observe French flagged fishing vessels using driftnets in the Mediterranean. Much time has been lost in political arguments and court cases while stocks continue to decline”.