Morocco to eliminate destructive driftnet fishing
Rabat, Morocco – King Mohammed VI of Morocco has signed an agreement that will help phase out the destructive use of driftnets in his country’s waters, which are known to cause the accidental death or injury of many marine species.
Under the new EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement, 119 European vessels, mostly Spanish, will be allowed to fish in Moroccan waters in exchange for an annual €36 million compensation package. A portion of this compensation, as requested by WWF, will fund the phasing out of Morocco’s driftnet fleet, the largest of its kind in the Mediterranean.
“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.
“We have been crying out for driftnets to be banned in the Mediterranean for years, so this concrete development is most welcome.”
Stretching up to 14km in length, driftnets are fishing nets that drift with the tide or current (and are buoyed by floats or attached to a boat). This indiscriminate and wasteful fishing method is estimated to kill around 3,600 dolphins and 23,000 sharks per year in the south-western part of the Mediterranean Sea alone.
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.
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.
“With most of the catch from the Moroccan driftnet 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.
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