Updated: Fishermen to file claim against Sea Shepherd
The Federation of aquaculture fishermen insisted again today that tuna which was being brought to Malta in a tuna cage last week had been legally caught. It also insisted that the Steve Irwin, flagship of the tuna conservation group Steve Irwin, had deliberately rammed the cage, endangering the lives of a number of fishermen.
The federation said Paul Watson, the captain of the Steve Irvin, was trying to justify his 'illegal 'actions in attacking a cage belonging to a farming operator.
"He knows that he has committed an illegal act, has deliberately caused substantial damages to an economic operator and has deliberately placed a number of lives in danger.
"It must be clarified that in the incident in question the Steve Irwin rammed the cage deliberately in an attempt to breach the cage. The ramming took place notwithstanding that there were employees in full sight of the ship on the gangway surrounding the cage. Footage which the FMAP holds shows clearly the Steve Irwin ploughing into the cage twice before the impact with the small support vessel. The support vessel impacted the Steve Irwin from the rear and to the side in a vain attempt to dislodge the Steve Irwin only after the latter had rammed into the cage. The movements of the support vessel were a reaction to the attack by the Steve Irwin against the cage."
It said that Capt Watson's questions on the legality of the catch would have been answered had he inspected the documentation.
"Of course he has no right to inspect the documentation because contrary to what he imagines, he is not a lawful authority. He could however have waited for the authorities"
The federation added that contrary to Capt Watson's declarations, military vessels flying the flags of a number of EU states had ventured into the Libyan fishing zone to control the fishery and make inspections.
"His claim to have contacted ICCAT, and the claimed reply of the latter cannot be true because Libya is a contracting party at ICCAT and therefore bound by the same rules which bind the EU and other contracting parties."
The federation observed that Paul Watson had admitted that on previous occasions the Maltese armed forces allowed him to inspect cages under their supervision.
"It is obvious therefore that the Maltese Authorities would have intervened had any evidence of wrongdoing been brought to light. He would therefore have been expecting similar treatment in this case. Why therefore do we ask Paul Watson, did he not request the presence of the authorities? Why did he not limit himself to watching the cage until the arrival of the authorities?"
The federation said the relevant owners had assured it and the Prime Minister that the fish was caught legally.
"Malta is entitled to acquire fish for farming wherever it comes from provided it is caught under the ICCAT quota system. We are informed that the fish was travelling with correctly compiled Bluefin catch documents which, incidentally is part of the control mechanism approved recently by the European Parliament.
We are also informed that the owners of the fish will be pursuing a claim against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. We will therefore await the outcome of these proceedings."
The federation thanked the Prime Minister and the Government of Malta for their position in support of the sector.
The Fisheries Control Section within the Resources Ministry in a statement explained that tuna catches were tightly monitored in line with the regulations of the International Commission for the Control of Atlantic Tuna. No tuna was allowed to be put into pens Malta without the relevant verification of documents by the authorities. Independent observers also monitored the trawlers during the catch.
Referring to the Sea Shepherd, the section said this was not a regulatory authority and therefore had not right to take the law into its own hands on the basis of suspicions. Sea Shepherd and anyone else could report their suspicions to the international regulatory authority (ICCAT) the EU or the national authority who would then carry out their verifications.
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Tags: malta, PM, tugboat, flares, concern, greenpeace, video, tuna, blue fin tuna, cages, afm, fishermen, injury, boats, capsize, mediterranean, fishery, legal, maltese
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