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Pirates And Plunder: Why Swordfish Is Off The Menu This Summer; 'Clearly Not A Sustainable Choice'

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LONDON, England -- The tourist’s taste for swordfish is wiping out the species and damaging the marine environment, reveals a new report released today.

Swordfish is a quintessential Mediterranean dish and one that thousands of Britons will tuck into as they holiday in the region over the coming weeks, but as the new report, “Illegal Driftnetting in the Mediterranean” reveals illegal driftnets, which have a devastating on the Mediterranean’s marine wildlife, are being used to catch swordfish.

Up to one-quarter of Mediterranean swordfish are caught using illegal driftnets, which were banned from global use in the early 1990s. Known as ‘walls of death’ because of their devastating impact on non-target marine species such as whales, dolphins, turtles, sharks and seabirds, these nets can be tens of miles long and continue to be used by an estimated 600 vessels from Italy, France, Morocco and Turkey.

  • In Italy, an estimated 100 illegal driftnet vessels operate, some having received up to €70,000 of EU taxpayers’ money to convert their vessels to legal fishing methods. In 2006, 250 miles of illegal nets were confiscated by the authorities. Striped dolphins, common dolphins, sperm whales, sharks, sea turtles and seabirds are amongst the species accidentally killed after becoming entangled in these nets.

  • France’s illegal driftnet fleet, known as ‘thonaille’, which targets swordfish and tuna, has been observed fishing within the internationally protected Pelagos Sanctuary, and is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of striped and Risso’s dolphins, sperm whales, and pilot whales.

  • The main known cause of decline of sperm whales in the Mediterranean is accidental capture in swordfish driftnets.

  • The Moroccan driftnet fleet of around 170 boats, the second largest producers of swordfish in the Mediterranean, is estimated to accidentally catch up to 19,000 dolphins and over 100,000 sharks every year.

“Mediterranean swordfish are overfished, undersized and often caught by illegal driftnets, says Steve Trent, EJF Executive Director. “It is outrageous that two developed countries – France and Italy – allow their fishing fleets to continue using these highly destructive nets, flouting EU law and ingoring international agreements to which they are party. At a time when global fish stocks are under increasing pressure, governments must take a stand against these pirate fishers – failure to do so will lead to catastrophic declines of some of our most important marine species and undermine the existence of the marine environment upon which so much tourism in the Mediterranean depends.”

“Swordfish is clearly not a sustainable choice for the responsible consumer,” continues Trent. “The EU and national governments have failed in their duty to manage swordfish stocks responsibly, but holiday makers can simply choose not to eat swordfish when they dine out this summer”.

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