Greenpeace seizes 'illegal' nets from Spanish trawler

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The Independent Online
GREENPEACE claimed yesterday that its ship, Rainbow Warrior, had seized 'illegal' drift-nets - similar to those that sparked the 'tuna war' - from a Spanish fishing boat in the Straits of Gibraltar, writes Danny Penman.

Xavier Pastor, spokesman for Greenpeace on Rainbow Warrior, said they found 'not less than seven' boats using the nets which varied from 3 to 5km in length. The maximum length of drift-net allowed in European Union waters is 2.5km (1.6 miles). Spain prohibited their use in 1990.

He also said that the nets had no dolphin-escape panels, which many fishermen claim allow marine mammals to escape.

Greenpeace said the Rainbow Warrior encountered a fleet of about 30 Spanish drift-netters on Sunday night. They managed to pull one of the nets from the water while the crew pelted them with missiles, including lead fishing weights.

A spokesman for Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food said: 'We expect the Spanish authorities to enforce the rules as we do. If Greenpeace have evidence that some fishermen are breaking the rules then they can give it to the Spanish authorities.'

Spain is seeking a total ban on drift-nets which environmentalists say are dangerously depleting fish stocks. Spanish fishermen are threatening to start using the nets for tuna fishing, rather than the traditional rod and pole method, if the EU does not ban the drift-nets.