Sea Shepherd Returns to the Med to Fight Against Illegal Fishing

Posted: 25th June 2019 | Written by: Sea Shepherd Italy

Sea Sherpherd Operation SISO 140

Thanks to the close collaboration and support of Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund and Smilewave Fund, Sea Shepherd continues to protect the Italian waters against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the South Tyrrhenian Sea.

Operation Siso 2019 begins with the aim of protecting the delicate ecosystem of the Aeolian Islands from unreported and unregulated illegal fishing. The M/Y Sam Simon will sail the waters of the South Tyrrhenian Sea in the coming months in close collaboration and coordination with the National Fisheries Control Center (CCNP) of the General Command of the Corps of Capitanerie and with the Guardia di Finanza.

Sea Shepherd fights against IUU fishing around the world; in the Aeolian Islands the activity focuses in particular on the use of 'sp' nets called “spadare”, a type of pelagic drift net, which despite being banned worldwide in 2003, is still used illegally in Italian waters for swordfish fishing.

Over the years, the spadare have killed a staggering number of sperm whales, turtles, tuna, swordfish, sharks and marine mammals due to its fine mesh, between 20 and 50 centimeters in size. Currently in Italy it’s permitted to use nets called "ferrettare", nets similar to “spadare” but with smaller mesh (10 cm in diameter), that nevertheless represent a fishing system selective by size but not by species.

SISO2019 FG The Sam Simon with the island in the back
Sea Shepherd's The Sam Simon on the horizon - Flavio Gasperini/Sea Shepherd

Operation SISO 2019 begins with a great success of the collaboration with the Italian authorities, in particular with the aeronaval operational department of the Guardia di Finanza, in Calabria. The investigative activity from sea and land has led to the organization and controls on trawlers in the Bagnara Calabra (Reggio Calabria), a place sadly known for the use of "spadare" drift nets.

The operation began with the coordinated activity of the Sea Shepherd speedboats and of the Guardia di Finanza patrol boats, promptly intervening; this led to complete inspection of the fishing boats and of the nets used at night. One of the two boats tried to get rid of the drift net it was already using because it contained a dead swordfish, suffocated by the net that had completely trapped him. Under the direction of the Guardia di Finanza, Sea Shepherd’s small boat “Viking” reported the position of the abandoned net with the lifeless swordfish.

SISO2019 FG Filmmaker Nina Holzl
Filmmaker Nina Holzl - Flavio Gasperini/Sea Shepherd

From Andrea Morello, Campaign Leader at Sea Shepherd Italy“According to the UN, the Mediterranean Sea is the most overexploited sea in the world with 62% of fish stocks now collapsing. Industrial fishing and its numbers, including the bycatch *, are definitely impoverishing it with a serious risk of depletion of marine species that would put the entire human species at risk, being that we are directly dependent on the biodiversity present in the seven tenths of our blue planet. So it is natural for Sea Shepherd to defend our future by defending the sea.

The first patrol activity began in two areas of the sea south of the Tyrrhenian called Alpha and Bravo. During the first week, we traveled 1,460 miles, monitored an area of ​​14,250 square kilometers, for 550 hours of navigation, encountering legal fishing systems such as the longline* for the swordfish and reporting to the Italian authorities the presence of illegal activities at sea.

SISO2019 FG The small boat comes back with the ghost net
The small boat comes back with the ghost net - Flavio Gasperini/Sea Shepherd

The collaboration with artisanal fishermen, created thanks to past campaigns in the Aeolian Islands and to the great work of the Aeolian Preservation Island Fund, has made monitoring of the area very effective. Last year, we worked together with local fishermen to protect the sea and endangered species, confiscating 130 KM of illegal fish aggregating devices (FAD) in this archipelago.

The union between Sea Shepherd’s “Neptune’s Navy” fleet and those who have been working for generations in such delicate areas as the Aeolian Islands, will be able to create a triangular collaboration dedicated to protecting the Aeolian Archipelago and all the lives that inhabit it, maximizing collaboration with law enforcement and bringing justice back to the scene of the crime.

From the beginning of the year, in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea, ten sperm whales died, almost all of them with plastic in their stomachs. To fight this, we continuously recover marine plastic and lost or abandoned fishing equipment left illegally drifting in the sea. We use our ships in defense of who we call "our clients", and we will keep it up until a Marine Protected Area in the Aeolian Islands is created that can bring biodiversity and tradition back to sustainability.

SISO2019 FG Bosun Molly is tired while the crew is retrieving an FAD
Bosun Molly as the crew retrieve an FAD - Flavio Gasperini/Sea Shepherd

Thanks to the donations of our supporters and the wonderful people of the Aeolian Island Preservation Fund, we have returned to the South Tyrrhenian Sea and we will remain to protect every life without compromise, measuring our success with the number of lives we save. "

From Luca Del Bono, Chairman of the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund: “Sea Shepherd is a key partner to the Aeolian Islands. We strongly believe that more patrols can discourage illegal activities and represent an effective weapon against the impoverishment of our sea. The small artisanal fishermen of the Aeolian Islands cannot compete with the large fishing boats and it is important that those who come to fish in these islands, do so respecting the existing constraints so that the biodiversity of the Aeolian sea is protected. "

* Bycatch: All the organisms caught involuntarily together with the species sought during fishing activity (professional or sporting).
** Longline: Professional or sports fishing tool, formed by a long line in which hooks are inserted at regular intervals.

Watch the campaign video for Operation SISO:

Who is SISO?

A young sperm whale who died in 2017, entangled in an illegal "spadara" net while passing through the Aeolian Islands. The Coast Guard’s heroic attempt to free him for many hours could not save him. Siso was found lifeless along the coast of Capo Milazzo by the marine biologist Carmelo Isgrò, who preserved the skeleton, keeping the net that killed him and the plastic found in his stomach, as a warning to future generations. Siso was the nickname of the friend who helped Dr. Isgrò recover the sperm whale, who died in a car accident in those days. 

The Aeolian Islands are heritage of UNESCO since 2000, they form an archipelago made up of seven islands, together with small islands and rocks touched by the sea. The islands are arranged in a horizontal  Y-shape, with the rod pointing towards the west; all of volcanic origin the islands are located in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea facing the north coast of Sicily at Cape Milazzo from which they are less than 12 nautical miles away.

 

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