A formal complaint about the activities of a group of Italian-owned trawlers in West African waters has been lodged with the European Union, requesting that the European Commission should launch infringement procedures against the flag state which has failed to meet its obligations.
The Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements (CFFA) and other NGOs have placed the formal complaint on record, stating that the Italian authorities have failed to meet their obligations under the Common Fisheries Policy by failing to act on the activities of a fleet of Italian vessels operating in waters off Sierra Leone.
According to CFFA and other NGOs, the trawlers Eighteen, Twenty, Myra Q, Idra Q, Pegaso Q, and Orione Q, registered in the Sicilian ports of Palermo and Mazzara del Vallo, have made frequent incursions into inshore areas reserved for artisanal fisheries, have caught species for which they are not licensed and have transshipped catches without authorisation.
The NGOs claim that they have built up a body of evidence linking the six trawlers to a long track record of illegal activity, including infringing finning rules and making incursions into the waters of other West African nations.
‘When they come to our countries, the EU people are always talking about how important it is to fight illegal fishing. They always argue that EU fleets fish legally and sustainably,’ said Gaoussou Gueye, President of the African Confederation of Artisanal Fisheries Professional Organizations (CAOPA).
‘Still, some EU vessels are involved in operations that are far from sustainable, some downright illegal, like the activities carried out by these Italian trawlers over many years in West Africa. If the EU wants to have credibility and be trusted by Africans, then it should not accept such behaviour by one of its Member States’ fleet. These Italian trawlers have to be monitored and properly sanctioned when they don’t respect the laws of our countries or the Common Fisheries Policy.’
He commented that these trawlers have never been sanctioned by Italy for unlawful activities, and that an infringement procedure opened in December 2016 by the European Commission against Italy related to some of these illegal activities in the Gambia and Guinea Bissau has still not been followed up by the Commission.
‘At a time when the European Union is championing sustainable fisheries globally and claims to be leading the fight against IUU fishing, it is unacceptable that it lets some EU-flagged vessels conduct IUU activities in the waters of African countries with total impunity. The EU must take action now,’ Gaoussou Gueye said.