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Marine Reserves needed to protect sea's fish stock

Marine Reserves needed to protect the sea's fish stock.

Athens, Wednesday, July 12, 2006--Greenpeace today warned that the illegal killing of scores of whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean sea will continue until Mediterranean countries get serious about enforcing a long standing ban on illegal driftnet fishing in their sea. The environmental organisation demanded that Mediterranean countries properly manage their fisheries and finally commit to a network of marine reserves to protect the sea's fish stock from dying, Greenpeace said today.

"If people are horrified by the images of the whales being harpooned in the Southern Ocean , they'd be equally repulsed by the thousands of dolphins and other creatures that are being entangled and killed by fisherman using huge illegal driftnets each season in the Mediterranean," said Sofia Tsenikli of Greenpeace Greece aboard the Rainbow Warrior. "It's illegal, it's immoral and it's time it was stopped. A ban should mean a ban."

Greenpeace's flagship the Rainbow Warrior has spent the past three weeks on the high seas off the coasts of Greece and Italy confronting rogue fishing vessels and confiscating their driftnets, known as 'walls of death', up to 15km in length and 15m deep that are still being used to fish a dwindling stock of swordfish despite United Nations and European Union bans. (1)

"The Mediterranean countries cannot have it both ways- bad management and overfishing have already wiped out 80% of the Mediterranean's tuna stock (2); the region's flagrant disregard for the driftnets ban that it signed up to, together with continuing mis-management of the fisheries threaten to take swordfish and other species down the same path unless they take action to protect their sea immediately," said Alessandro Gianni of Greenpeace Italy. "Unfortunately, for every driftnet rounded up, countless vessels are still getting away with murder."

Belated round-ups by the Italian authorities over the past 6 months have reportedly captured over 400 km of illegal driftnets from ships which have already received large grants from the EU to change fishing gear since the ban came into effect. (3)

Greenpeace is calling on the Mediterranean countries to establish a network of Marine Reserves covering 40% of the Mediterranean sea. Elsewhere around the world marine reserves have increased the number of species and regenerated the fish populations. (4)

"With proper and legally enforced management of the fish stocks outside the reserves, both commercial and conservation interests can be met, said Tsenikli. "

"Over the past 3 weeks we've been on dives both in and around Marine Reserves and well away from them too. In the Marine Reserves that were properly managed there's plenty of fish. Elsewhere, the sea's bereft. Time is fast running out," concluded Tsenikli.

From Greece the Rainbow Warrior continues on its three-month tour 'Defending Our Mediterranean' and travels next to Turkey, where it will work with scientists from Turkey and Israel to carry out a survey of whales and dolphins, as well as documenting some of the polluted and pristine sites along the Turkish coastline.

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to drive solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

Notes to editors:

(1) Driftnet fleets are also present in Morocco (177 vessels); Turkey (45-100); France 45-75). See, "Marine Reserves for the Mediterranean Sea", www.oceans.greenpeace.org/med-marine-reserves-report

(2) See, "Where have all the tuna gone?", Greenpeace, May 2006 www.oceans.greenpeace.org/tuna-report

(3) One of the illegal driftnet vessels that confronted Greenpeace off the coast of Italy had been compensated some 28 000 euros to change its fishing gear. Another had received nearly 10 000 euros.

(4) Greenpeace Mediterranean Marine Reserve proposal includes known spawning and nursery grounds of swordfish and important areas for dolphins and whales. With proper and legally enforced management of the fish stocks outside the reserves, both commercial and conservation interests can be met. See, "Marine Reserves for the Mediterranean Sea", www.oceans.greenpeace.org/med-marine-reserves-report


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