EIA has been working with fellow NGO The Black Fish to focus greater international attention on the destructive practice of illegal drift netting and its impacts on whales, dolphins and porpoises.
At their peak in the 1990s, driftnet fisheries were estimated to be killing up to 10,000 cetaceans each year in the Mediterranean alone.
Although the use of large-scale driftnets is now illegal throughout Europe and on the high seas, undercover investigations by The Black Fish show such nets (exceeding a staggering 2.5km in length) continue to be used in Europe.
In May, EIA and The Black Fish presented a paper to the Scientific Committee meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) highlighting the ongoing threat posed by illegal drift netting to cetacean populations.
In investigations conducted during the past few years, The Black Fish has found that inadequate inspection and enforcement of drift netting legislation continues to be endemic in a number of European countries.
The importance of the work by organisations such as The Black Fish to expose this environmental crime was highlighted by the IWC Scientific Committee when it emphasised that “improving the identification of ports and areas affected by the illegal driftnet fishery was of considerable importance and should be pursued further”.
Moreover, the IWC Scientific Committee has expressed concern over ongoing illegal drift netting and recommends that countries increase their enforcement capacity and penalties for any illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
EIA Cetaceans Researcher Sarah Baulch said: “These recommendations will be relayed to European ministers at the forthcoming IWC Commission meeting in September and we hope they will spur greater enforcement to curtail this hugely damaging environmental crime”.
Blackfish Founder & International Director Wietse van der Werf added: “The ongoing use of illegal driftnets is really a setback for the entire environmental movement because the global ban on such nets is probably one of the strictest environmental laws that successful campaigning has realised.
“Enforcement, however, is another issue and we are very glad to be joining forces with the EIA in order to push this issue up the political agenda.”