On-board Diary: A Wall of Death in the Mediterranean

Author: Keith Ellenbogen
Date: July 4, 2008



For a moment, imagine a net that descends 100ft/30meters almost as deep as the maximum depth at which recreational diver can safely descend. The length of the driftnet extends for 12 miles/20 kilometers. That is equivalent to the length of a half-marathon that takes approximately two hours to run from start to finish — if you are in good shape.

Now imagine that any living animal such as a whale, dolphin, sea turtle, shark, stingray, sunfish swimming innocently into this virtually invisible net drifting in the ocean — becoming entangled — struggling to save its life — before its inevitable slow death.

Driftnets have been prohibited by the European Union in the Mediterranean since 2002 because it KILLS everything in its path. There are plenty of alternatives to this method i.e. longline fishing — IF and only if they use “circle-hooks” that do not catch and kill sea turtles as well as the appropriate bait to catch ONLY targeted species such as swordfish.

Other devastating affects caused by driftnets in Italian waters are:

  • 25% of the total catch — is non-commercial Meaning it has no commercial value and is dumped dead back at sea.
  • An additional 10% of the by-catch are protected species of marine animals .
  • Approximately 8,000 cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are killed each year by driftnets in Italian waters.

For more information an excellent video that helps illustrate this point is “The Business The Illegal Driftnetters” produced by Earth Ocean.

In the afternoon we observed four boats that we suspected are using driftnets.

Ausonia (4CT1055), Andrea Doria II, Ross Lucy (3CT482), Saratoka (3CT502)

"We are not going to stop until we get rid of the driftnets because it is a plague and it has been admitted by everybody, the United Nations, the national governments, everybody. There is no discussion what so ever, about the damage driftnets does and we have legislation now, we only need enforcement, so we have to push for the enforcement of those laws." — Oceana Expedition Leader Xavier Pastor.