Recently reported in the Financial Times, EU inspectors have uncovered widespread use of driftnets by fishing vessels based in the Italian islands of Sicily and Ponza. Allegedly local authorities have turned a blind eye to the actions.Banned by the EU in 2002, driftnets are used to catch bluefin tuna and swordfish, and sustain alarming levels of bycatch in the Mediterranean. However concerns remain over loopholes in the legislation.
The crackdown by the EU Fisheries Commissioner is expected to launch infringement procedures and lay down heavy fines on Italy. Some of the offending vessels – identified by the EU inspectors – had received official subsidies to stop fishing with driftnets, which were banned by the EU in 2002.
The FT report indicates that inspectors went undercover as tourists, also alleged the “full tolerance of the Italian authorities” and was particularly critical of the coastguard.
Its good to see the EU getting serious, but it is also critical for the local community to create the pressure to change. That, in the end, will be the most likely driver on change.