Sea Shepherd Thwarts Illegal Fishing in the Med, No Whales Entangled This Season

Monday, 13 Sep, 2021

Operations conducted under the cover of darkness, in close cooperation with the Italian Coast Guard and Financial Police, catch fishing vessels red-handed with illegal nets in the waters around the Aeolian Islands, resulting in one arrest and the confiscation of over 15km of deadly driftnets.

Coast Guard ship Gregoretti and Sea Shepherd's Conrad on the scene. Photo by Germana Costanza Lavagna/Sea Shepherd.

During patrols between May and June, illegal fishing activities using the infamous illegal drift nets called "ferrettara” were dismantled in the northern Aeolian archipelago.

In early August, after investigations carried out on land and at sea identified illegal fishing activity, Sea Shepherd crew onboard the Conrad conducted two covert patrols under the cover of darkness to witness fishing vessels setting 3km of illegal nets in an attempt to catch swordfish around the Aeolian Islands archipelago.

Thanks to our close cooperation with the National Fisheries Control Centre (CCNP) of the General Command of the Coast Guard Corps and the Financial Police, almost 20 kilometres of illegal nets were confiscated over a 48-hour period and one captain was issued a €4000 fine.

Meanwhile, Sea Shepherd’s newest vessel, the Sea Eagle, spent several months tracking down and confiscating illegal FADs (fish aggregating devices) and other marine debris that endanger marine wildlife species throughout the Mediterranean’s South Tyrrhenian Sea, including sperm whales, sea turtles, sharks, bluefin tuna, and swordfish.

Sea Eagle Crew retreiving illagal FADs from the sea. Photo by Alice Gregoire/Sea Shepherd.
Sea Eagle Crew retreiving illagal FADs from the sea. Photo by Alice Gregoire/Sea Shepherd.
Some of the fishing line retrieved from the sea by the crew. Photo Alice Gregoire/Sea Shepherd.

This is the fourth year in a row Sea Shepherd’s Operation Siso continues the fight against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, with a focus on the removal of FADs and deadly driftnets known as “ferrettara” that have already entangled and killed several sperm whales around the Aeolian Islands. However, thanks to the success of this year’s campaign, no whales were found entangled in fishing gear in these waters this season.

A Successful Operation Under the Cover of Darkness

To catch the illegal fishing vessels red-handed, the Conrad sailed through the night to reach the area they suspected illegal nets were being set, and stayed out of sight. Just after midnight they spotted the bright lights of two fishing boats that had been hiding in the darkness with several kilometres of illegal nets in the water. In order to hoist them onboard, they had to turn on their stern lights, allowing the Sea Shepherd crew to catch them on camera.

Fishing boat caught red-handed retrieving illegal nets. Photo by Germana Costanza Lavagna/Sea Shepherd.
Coast Guard ship Gregoretti pulling in the illegal fishing nets. Photo by Germana Costanza Lavagna/Sea Shepherd.
Sea Shepherd First Officer Fabio discovers illegal fishing nets hidden on Salina Beach. Photo by Germana Costanza Lavagna/Sea Shepherd.
Sea Shepherd crew and Coast Guard removing the illegal fishing net from Salina Beach. Photo

Working in coordination with the Coast Guard, Sea Shepherd confiscated the first 2.5km of fishing lines in the port of Lipari, and the captain of the boat was issued a €4000 fine.

The same scenario repeated itself the following night when Sea Shepherd’s crew once again used the cover of darkness to witness several more illegal nets hidden just below the waterline. Authorities were notified, and 5.3km of lines were confiscated with the arrival of Gregoretti Coast Guard vessel at dawn. Thanks to a tip-off, Sea Shepherd volunteers found and reported another 8km net hidden during the night by one of the fishing boats on Salina Island, leading to its seizure by the authorities.

“Thanks to the determination and passion of the volunteers in the new Sea Eagle and Conrad vessels, this year we will stand guard over legality and in defence of the future of our entire species in the South Tyrrhenian Sea, until justice is restored,” said Operation Siso Campaign Director, Andrea Morello.

Recent Additions to Neptune’s Navy

This year’s campaign is joined by a new ship, the Sea Eagle, a 40-metre-long former French pilot boat that can accommodate up to 17 people, donated to Sea Shepherd by Allianz SE, Allianz Technology and Allianz Italy as part of a two-year partnership to combat the presence of plastic in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Sea Eagle crew remove deadly FADs from the South Tyrrhenian Sea. Photo Alice Gregoire/Sea Shepherd.

“Sea Shepherd is very grateful for the support of Allianz,” said Sea Shepherd Global CEO Captain Alex Cornelissen. “Together we will address the issue of abandoned fishing gear, and look at ways to convert ocean plastic into materials we can re-use or sell in order to further fund our work and create more awareness. This new vessel will be dedicated almost exclusively to our work in the Mediterranean Sea, both as a huge improvement for our existing campaigns like Operation Siso, as well as the perfect vessel to start exciting new campaigns.”

The M/Y Conrad, a 17-metre catamaran, joined Neptune’s Navy 2020 thanks to a generous donation by Jane Patterson and Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni (Sea Shepherd Global member, US Board Advisor, as well as member of the Council of Wise Men of Sea Shepherd Italy).

“The protection of all species threatened by different forms of illegal fishing is urgent and crucial," said Cossia Castiglioni. "The extensive ongoing collaboration with the Italian authorities offers a unique and extraordinary opportunity to protect our seas, combining the enthusiasm of the valuable Sea Shepherd volunteers with the professionalism and courage of the law enforcement agencies.”

Learn more about Operation Siso


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