Thursday 10th June, 2010

Tuna wars in the mediterranean

Image courtesy Greenpeace

The fight to save the Mediterranean’s remaining bluefin tuna has led to a series of violent clashes between activists and fishermen.

On 4 June, a Greenpeace UK activist was injured by a grappling hook that was shot through his leg by French tuna fishermen.

Several days later, on 7 June the owner of a French fishing vessel claimed that one of his men was hurt when the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise rammed into one of his trawlers. Greenpeace has rejected these claims.

Activists attacked

Last Friday, Greenpeace activists were alerted to the presence of some purse-seiners – a type of commercial fishermen who use big nets – looking for bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean Sea. They took two of their ships and seven small inflatable boats and tried to free the tuna from the nets.

The fishermen retaliated by ramming the inflatable vessels with their boats before setting about slashing them with knives and iron grapples and firing distress signals at the activists and Greenpeace helicopter. One raft was sunk and another stolen.

Frank Hewetson, from London, had to be airlifted to a nearby hospital after one French vessel shot a grappling hook into his leg.

The fight to save bluefin tuna

Willie Mackenzie, who was part of the Greenpeace UK team involved in the melee, said: “While all this was happening, I was talking on the radio to a patrolling French warship and told them we were taking action because the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) had not done enough.”

“Their response was to ask us not to interfere with the fishing operations because they were legal. To that I simply replied that it didn't matter if the fishery was legal, it was pushing the species towards extinction and that we would continue to take action to stop the purse seining. Their response was, ‘Roger that, over and out’!”

According to Greenpeace, 90 per cent of large fish, such as tuna, have disappeared from our oceans.

Greenpeace denies second clash

On June 7, AFP reported another clash between French fishermen and Greenpeace tuna activists and quoted Jean-Marie Avallone, the owner of one of the French vessels, as saying that one of his fishermen had been injured by a Greenpeace boat.

Isabelle Philippe a spokeswoman for the Greenpeace in France said that there had been no contact and that the activists had turned away when they saw two fishing boats heading towards them.


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