Italian fishing industry body Federpesca has condemned the actions of a Libyan Coastguard patrol that fired on Italian fishing vessels this week, with one Italian crewman injured.
Italian naval vessels attended the scene to keep the Libyan and Italian vessels apart in an area that has seen increasing clashes taking place in recent years.
Last year 18 fishermen and two vessels from Sicily were held in Libya for more than three months before being freed in December.
In this latest incident, three Italian vessels from Mazara del Vallo in Sicily fishing for red prawns are reported to have been machine-gunned, while Libyan authorities claim that only warning shots were fired into the air.
‘It’s a miracle we are alive. The wheelhouse of our boat is full of holes,’ skipper Giuseppe Giacalone, told the Italian news agency ANSA.
‘The situation has become untenable for our fishermen and Federpesca has for years tried to alert the government to this,’ a Federpesa spokesman said.
‘The government must take action to clarify the events that took place and needs to adopt a strong position on the legal position of these waters, over which Libya claims sovereignty.’
This area has been increasingly tense ever since then-Libyan leader Muammur Ghadaffi in 2005 extended Libya’s fishing limits in defiance of international standards from 12 nautical miles to 74, although even before that the Libyan authorities had employed heavy-handed methods against Sicilian fishermen.
Sicilian fishing co-operative Distretto della Pesca reports that over a 25-year period, more than 60 fishing vessels have been confiscated by Libya, approximately 40 fishermen have been detained and there have been dozens of injuries during numerous clashes.