Operation SISO 2019: Sea Shepherd Returns to the Mediterranean to Fight Illegal Fishing
Monday, 24 Jun, 2019
Sea Shepherd returns to the Mediterranean Sea with the M/Y Sam Simon to protect Italian waters from illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Working in partnership with Italian authorities, this campaign known as Operation Siso focuses on the use of illegal drift nets and other deadly fishing gear around the Aeolian Islands in the South Tyrrhenian Sea, part of the Mediterranean Sea off the west coast of Italy.
The M/Y Sam Simon began patrols in June in close coordination with the Guardia di Finanza and the National Fisheries Control Center (CCNP) of the General Command of the Capitanerie Corps. Their focus is to stop the use of illegal “spadare” nets, a type of drift net banned worldwide in 2003, yet still commonly used for swordfish fishing in Italian waters, particularly around the Aeolian Islands, an archipelago made up of seven islands listed as a UNESCO heritage site since 2000. These illegal drift nets are also responsible for large numbers of deaths of other non-target species, or bycatch, including sperm whales, sea turtles, tuna, sharks and other marine mammals.
The campaign began with the successful investigation into driftnetting activity off the coast of the Bagnara Calabra, an area of the Tyrrhenian Sea known for illegal “spadare” nets. Sea Shepherd assisted the Guardia di Finanza patrol boats in the control and inspection of fishing vessels and the nets they were using at night. One boat tried to cut loose its drift net to hide the evidence (including an already-suffocated and dead swordfish tangled in the net), but Sea Shepherd’s small speed boat “Viking” was able to report the position to the Guardia di Finanza.
During the first week on patrol, the Sam Simon traveled 1,460 miles and monitored an area of 14,250 square kilometers for 550 hours of navigation, reporting illegal fishing activities to the Italian authorities. According to the UN, the Mediterranean Sea is the most overexploited sea in the world with 62% of fish stocks now collapsing. Industrial fishing and its numbers, including the bycatch, are definitely impoverishing it with a serious risk of depletion of marine species that would put the entire human species at risk.
“Eight sperm whales have died so far this year in the South Tyrrhenian Sea, almost all of them with plastic in their stomachs,” says Andrea Morello, Operation Siso Campaign Leader. “To help stop this, Sea Shepherd continuously pulls up any marine plastic and lost or abandoned fishing equipment left illegally drifting in the sea while we’re on campaign. Last year, we also worked together with artisanal fishermen to effectively protect the sea and endangered species by confiscating 130km of illegal fish aggregating devices (FAD) in the Aeolian archipelago.
Thanks to the donations of our supporters and the wonderful people of the Aeolian Island Preservation Fund as well as the Smilewave Fund, we have returned to the South Tyrrhenian Sea to defend the marine wildlife we call "our clients", and we will keep it up until a Marine Protected Area in the Aeolian Islands is created."
“Sea Shepherd is a key partner to the Aeolian Islands. We strongly believe that more patrols can discourage illegal activities and represent an effective weapon against the impoverishment of our sea. The small artisanal fishermen of the Aeolian Islands cannot compete with the large fishing boats and it is important that those who come to fish in these islands, do so respecting the existing constraints so that the biodiversity of the Aeolian sea is protected. "Luca Del Bono, Chairman of the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund
Who is SISO? A young sperm whale who died in 2017, entangled in an illegal "spadara" net while passing through the Aeolian Islands. The Coast Guard’s heroic attempt to free him for many hours could not save him. Siso was found lifeless along the coast of Capo Milazzo by the marine biologist Carmelo Isgrò, who preserved the skeleton, keeping the net that killed him and the plastic found in his stomach, as a warning to future generations. Siso was the nickname of the friend who helped Dr. Isgrò recover the sperm whale, who died in a car accident in those days (photo of SISO beached at Capo Milazzo).
WATCH THE CAMPAIGN LAUNCH VIDEO (below) and support Operation Siso with your donations HERE.