Italian illegal use of drift-nets

05 Oct 2011
Italy has failed to control and enforce the ban on the use of drift-nets

Italy has failed to control and enforce the ban on the use of drift-nets

The European Commission has called on Italy to take measures and comply with an October 2009 Court of Justice ruling on Italy's continued illegal use of drift-nets.

The Court found that Italy had failed to adequately control and enforce the EU ban on the use of drift-nets.

Commissioner Damanaki stated: "Safeguarding of fish stocks and the eradication of illegal fishing practices are crucial priorities for the EU and I deeply regret Italy's long-standing infringement of the drift-net ban. Fishing with illegal gear such as drift-nets is highly destructive, as it ruins marine habitats, endangers marine wildlife and threatens sustainable fisheries. Illegal fishing practices ruin the income of honest fishermen and coastal communities - and the future of fisheries altogether. Therefore, in the interest of all, implementation and enforcement of the rules are at the heart of our policy."

Despite persistent calls on Italy to fulfil its monitoring and enforcement tasks adequately with regard to illegal drift-nets, recent on-site inspections did not show any significant improvements as compared to the situation before the Court's judgement. The Commission's verifications indicate that drift-nets are still used illegally in Italy in large numbers, and that actions taken by national authorities are neither sufficient, nor efficient enough to deter their use.

If no satisfactory actions are taken within two months from the receipt of the Commission's letter, the Commission may refer this case to the Court of Justice again, this time asking the Court to impose significant financial penalties on Italy in accordance with the Treaty rules.

In response to this announcement, Lee Crockett, who directs Atlantic bluefin tuna conservation at the Pew Environment Group, issued the following statement:

“Driftnets are a wasteful, indiscriminate fishing method that has been banned for decades. We applaud the European Union for taking strong action against one of the best documented cases of illegal fishing in the Mediterranean - the Italian fleets’ ongoing use of prohibited driftnets to catch endangered bluefin tuna and swordfish.

“The Pew Environment Group now urges the European Union to closely monitor Italy’s progress on this issue. If the country fails to take meaningful action, such as banning the use of ferrettare, small scale coastal driftnets, Pew urges the EU to refer this case to the European Court of Justice.”

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