EU risks bypassing driftnet ban



Posted on 16 September 2005  | 
Brussels, Belgium – European Fisheries Ministers are set to approve the reintroduction of driftnets at an upcoming European Union Fisheries Council, as part of the so-called "Mediterranean regulation".

Should this happen, environmental NGOs such as WWF, Greenpeace, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) will consider taking legal action against the EU Council for breaching international law and the 1998 European Regulation establishing a ban on driftnets. 
 
At the meeting, scheduled for 19–20 September, Ministers intend to exempt from the ban a type of driftnet known as "anchored floating gillnets". 
 
"We are outraged with the fact that legally binding international resolutions might be ignored by the Fisheries Ministers," said Charlotte Mogensen, Fisheries Policy Officer at WWF's European Policy Office in Brussels. 
 
"The Council is creating a gaping hole in the net of fishing regulations, backtracking on hard-fought commitments designed to protect the most spectacular species of the Mediterranean," added Saskia Richartz, EU Marine Policy Adviser at Greenpeace. 
 
Driftnets are an environmentally harmful fishing gear which cause devastating damage to marine biodiversity. They consist of a string of vertical nets which drift with the current for kilometers, often entrapping species not targeted by fishermen. Every year such practices kill thousands of cetaceans, turtles, sharks, and dolphins. 
 
"This attempt to legalize driftnets could also open the door to the dismantling of the newly adopted driftnet ban in the Baltic Sea," pointed out Gaia Angelini, a political campaigner at IFAW's EU office. 
 
Greenpeace, IFAW, and WWF call for a total ban of all driftnetting gillnets in EU waters.

NOTES: 

• The current proposal undermines EC Regulation 1239/98 and violates all the international legislation in force on driftnets, including UN Resolutions 44/225 and 46/215, the FAO General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean Recommendation GFCM/2005/3, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas’ Recommendation 03-04, the FAO International Plan of Action on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IPOA IUU), and the 1995 UN-FAO Fish Stock Agreement. 
 
• In August 2005, a French court declared illegal a national decree adopted in 2003 authorizing the use of ‘thonaille’, a driftnetting gillnet, following an intervention by NGOs. Italy still tolerates the use of ‘ferrattare’, another driftnetlike net.
 
• Council Regulation 812 /2004 on incidental catches of cetaceans provides for a phasing out of driftnets in the Baltic sea and a total ban by 2008 

For further information:
Claudia Delpero, Communications Manager
WWF European Policy Office
Tel:+32 2 740 0925
Mobile: +32 497 406381
E-mail: cdelpero@wwfepo.org
 
Gaia Angelini, Political Campaigner
IFAW EU
Tel: +32 2 237 6052
Mobile: +32 475 867832
 
Saskia Richartz, EU Marine Policy Adviser
Greenpeace European Unit
Tel: +32 2 274 1902
Mobile: +32 495 290028

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