WWF: Morocco to eliminate driftnet fishing – Fishupdate.com

WWF: Morocco to eliminate driftnet fishing Published:  28 February, 2007

WWF said today that The King of Morocco has this week put his signature to an agreement which will subsidise the phasing out of driftnets in Moroccan waters.

WWF, the global conservation organization,said it welcomes this major milestone in the banning of destructive fishing methods in the Mediterranean.

An indiscrimate and wasteful fishing gear,WWF says driftnets are fishing nets which drift with the tide or current – buoyed up by floats or attached to a boat – and can stretch for up to 14km long. They are known to cause the accidental death or injury of many marine species.

Under the new EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) , 119 European vessels (mostly Spanish) will be allowed to fish in Moroccan waters – in exchange for EU compensation of 36 million euros per year. As WWF had requested, a small part of this money will fund the phasing out of Morocco’s driftnet fleet – the largest of its kind in the Mediterranean.

A recent WWF study revealed that at least 177 fishing boats were illegally using driftnets up to 14km long in the Alboran Sea between Morocco and Spain – to target swordfish intended for the European market. Such activities were estimated to kill around 3,600 dolphins and 23,000 sharks per year in this part of the Mediterranean Sea alone.

“This agreement is a major step forward in making fishing methods more sustainable in the Mediterranean,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. “WWF has been crying out for driftnets to be banned in the Mediterranean for years, so this concrete development is most welcome.”

Driftnets, though illegal, are still widely used across the Mediterranean. The EU banned driftnet fishing in 2002, and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas followed suit in the Mediterranean in 2003 with pressure from WWF. The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean also banned driftnets in the Mediterranean at the start of 2005 – yet all these bans still remain to be fully enforced.

“With most of the catch from the Moroccan drifnet fleet in the Mediterranean destined for European markets, the EU must step up and take responsibility by effectively monitoring the phase-out of driftnets in Morocco,” added Tudela. “We further urge the EU to ensure no other driftnet-like fishing gear be tolerated – as has been threatened in a new fisheries regulation for the Mediterranean.”