'Walls of death' lead to new tuna war: Tourists suffer as Spanish fishing fleet sets up blockade against 'illegal' French fishing methods

SPANISH fishermen who want to bring an end to the 'illegal' fishing practices of the French tuna fleet blockaded ports along their country's northern coast yesterday in a dramatic escalation of the 'tuna war'. The blockade of the port of Santander in Spain forced Brittany Ferries' Val de Loire, with 1,740 passengers and more than 500 cars on board, to turn round for a 20-hour voyage to Roscoff in northern France.

Some 1,500 tired and angry travellers were stuck at Santander awaiting their passage on the same ship to Plymouth.

Some 25 Spanish boats in international waters blocked the entrance to the Bidasso estuary, and the French port of Hendaye, by stringing steel hawsers between each other. A French naval patrol vessel was looking on yesterday, but there were no reports of incidents.

'We will keep closing harbours until a total ban on drift-net fishing is implemented,' a representative of the Spanish fleet said. 'We do not trust the European authorities anymore.'

At around 400 boats, the Spanish tuna fleet is much larger than the French fleet of between 40 and 60 and the amount of tuna caught by Spain (some 20,000 tonnes) compared with France (4,000 tonnes declared) is far greater. The Spanish fishermen, supported by Greenpeace, say that their methods of using rods, long lines and live bait to catch albacore tuna are environmentally appropriate because they fish selectively. The French fleet, which has only been in business since the late Eighties, uses drift nets which have been banned by the United Nations. The European Union, which voted for the UN moratorium, none the less approves of drift nets, if they are no longer than 1,500 yards.

Drift nets, also known as 'walls of death', are left hanging in the water along the migratory routes of the tuna which are trapped by their gills. In the Mediterranean, hundreds of Italian boats illegally use nets to catch swordfish. Some Spanish boats use drift nets to fish illegally in the Straits of Gibraltar.

Overfishing as a result of the high technology now at the disposal of fishing fleets has revolutionised fishing and put huge pressure on stocks. The skills required of a skipper to locate and catch fish have been supplanted by satellite imagery (showing the temperature of currents and the location of schools of fish). Directional sonar lets skippers find shoals of fish with pinpoint accuracy.

Cheap nylon monofilament, which is invisible to fish, can be set (illegally) up to 40 miles and with refrigeration and mother ships, hundreds of tonnes of fish can be frozen before the fleet returns to port. The 'hi-tech fishing' allows vessels to scoop up entire schools of fish indiscriminately, with no account for undersize fish or other species.

The killing of dolphins during tuna fishing has become a highly emotive issue in the United States. Such was the public outcry over the practice that the US banned the imports of tuna from countries that use these methods.

The new tuna war between France and Spain has the potential to turn violent and has already seen the capture of a French drift netter, the Gabrielle, by Spanish fishermen. They claim to have found an illegal 3-mile-long drift net in the ship's hold.

The European Commission has long winked at the practices of French fishermen, knowing that without inspectors on board ships, it is next to impossible to police the 1,500-yard rule for drift nets. Last week the Commission acquired new powers to have independent inspectors vet both Spanish and French boats, but that has not satisfied the angry Spanish fishermen.

The Commission, which is embarrassed by the squabble between France and Spain, said yesterday that what was needed was a new scientific study on the use of drift- net fishing methods by France, Italy, Spain, Britain, Ireland and Denmark.

The Fisheries Commissioner, Yannis Paleokrassas, also stressed that drift nets must be banned. However, that would take a decision of EU fisheries ministers who do not meet until 28 September.

(Photographs and graphic omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas