Jairo Med at Sea: Campaign Update

Donnerstag, 07 Sep, 2017

In the seven days patrolling the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Aeolian Islands, the M/V Sam Simon, in a joint effort with the Coast Guard of the Catania Maritime Department, mapped 49 illegal FADs as part of Sea Shepherd’s Jairo Med Campaign to protect sea turtles. Unfortunately the crew also discovered some of the deadly effects of illegal fishing gear on marine wildlife.

Sea Shepherd retrieves illegal FADs in cooperation with the Italian Coast Guard. Photo Karma Weissbrodt/Sea Shepherd.

The joint effort between Lipari's Coast Guard, the M/V Sam Simon and Sea Shepherd volunteers resulted in more than 73.5km of nylon ropes retrieved from the sea along with countless plastic jerrycans and bottles, which are now on board the M/V Sam Simon so that they are no longer a danger to marine wildlife in the Mediterranean Sea. 

The illegal FADs (Fishing Aggregating Devices), which are locally called “cannizzi”, are fixed buoys to which palm branches or similar materials are attached to form a sort of shelter under which high-sea fish gather. They damage both life in the Mediterranean and local, legal fishing. They are illegal in the Aeolian waters at this time of the year, and have to be regulated when the season starts. The local management plan for the Aeolian Islands archipelago regulates their use:

“In the zone to be managed, specific areas shall be individuated, in which the “cannizzi” shall be anchored, and their number shall be previously determined (maximum number: 20), along with the positioning and the use (measure 1.4 of the 2007-2013 EFF). They shall be assigned to fishers by means of random draw and they shall bear initials that shall make them recognizable. Moreover, in order to fight the fact that, in the last few years, common dolphinfish are caught earlier and earlier, it is ordered that the “cannizzi” shall be placed starting from September, 15th, and that the beginning of the fishing of common dolphinfish shall start on October, 30th”.

Sea Shepherd crew pulling in one of the many illegal FADs in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Photo Karma Weissbrodt/Sea Shepherd.

Unfortunately the crew of the Sam Simon has spotted over 80 FADs in just the first five days of navigation. The FADs we retrieved did not have any identification, and their complete lack of traceability makes them a part of Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported fishing (IUU). On the 30st of August, the Sam Simon had just finished retrieving a FAD in the waters  6nm south from the island of Filicudi, and started moving south towards the next Fad when we spotted something in the water that looked like debris. Coming closer it turned out to be a dead turtle about 1m long, floating at the surface, in an advanced state of decomposition. The shell was almost all gone, burnt by the sun, and the face and four fins swallowed and eaten out. As we put a crew in the water to film the dead turtle, a thick white fishing line could clearly been identified, coming out of the mouth and going down over more than a meter (watch the video below). Many marine animals get entangled in the fishing lines, and die suffocating in pain, as happened to this unfortunate turtle.

A dead turtle discovered with fishing line coming out of its mouth. Photo Thomas LeCoz/Sea Shepherd.

Sea Shepherd fights against IUU fishing, against the use of plastic at sea, and against illegal fishing nets, employing ten ships and crews composed by hundreds of people on almost all the seas of our planet. 

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