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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Vast Mediterranean driftnets killing thousands of dolphins

Vast Mediterranean driftnets killing thousands of dolphins illegally

A Seal caught in a drift net. Drift nets seriously threaten much of marine life in South Africa.
Copyright Sandra Mbanefo Obiago/..WWF-Canon.

Illegal fishery in Morocco allows ocean destruction to go on - To feed European consumers

The practice has been banned in the Mediterranean since 2003, yet a large fleet of driftnets - fishing nets up to 14km in length that drift with the tide or current and catch almost anything in their path - continues to operate business as usual in Morocco, targeting swordfish for the European market.

20,000 dolphins and more than 100,000 sharks killed
This illegal fishing is likely to have caused the accidental deaths of as many as 20,000 dolphins and more than 100,000 sharks in the past five years alone, says WWF. Fisheries experts from WWF recently visited Morocco where they were told by driftnet fishermen that no changes in the fishing activity of this illegal fleet had occurred in the past few years - despite international prohibitions.

"Fragile ocean life is still being destroyed by widespread driftnet fishing - against the law - in Moroccan waters," said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. "This lack of compliance by Moroccan fleets not only undermines the credibility of the international fisheries management governance system, but also takes an unacceptable toll on marine biodiversity. Thousands of dolphins and sharks - and loggerhead turtles, an endangered species - are caught up in these walls of death in the Mediterranean every year," continued Tudela. "WWF demands action by those responsible for sustainable fisheries management in the region to stop the slaughter."

Drift net fishing in the mediterrenean sea. Photo credits are: copyright P. Guglielmi/..WWF-Canon

Driftnets banned from the Mediterranean
Fishing with large-scale driftnets has been internationally.. banned by the United Nations since 1991. In 2003, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) adopted a more rigorous regulation, banning the use of any driftnets, irrespective of size, for capturing large fish in the Mediterranean Sea.

In 2003, WWF released the results of a field study that showed the presence of at least 177 driftnet vessels in northern Morocco that used large-scale gears and targeted swordfish for export to the European market. The study also estimated an accidental catch by driftnets of 4,000 dolphins every year in the Mediterranean Sea alone.

Since 2003, Morocco has repeatedly promised to phase out its driftnet fleet, but has still not done so. According to UN and ICCAT resolutions, this fishery thus fully qualifies as illegal, inregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. And in January 2010, the European Commission's Regulation on IUU will enter into force, which prohibits the importation of fishery products obtained from IUU fishing into the European Union (EU).

The EU has even made available to Morocco a total of € 3.75 million for the phase-out of driftnets, and WWF urges the European Commission to demand reports from Morocco on its use of EU public funds for the specific purpose of phasing out its driftnet fleet.

"The current illegal driftnet fishery in Morocco, targeting swordfish for the European market, is a test-case for the credibility of the EU's determination to fight illegal fishing," continued Dr Tudela. "WWF urges the European Commission to send a strong signal to Morocco about its political commitment to stamp out illegal fishing - or fully apply the IUU Regulation in January 2010."


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