Operation Siracusa: An Overview of the Fourth Year

Wednesday, 05 Jul, 2017

Sea Shepherd's fourth operation in defense of the Plemmirio Marine Reserve in Siracuse, Italy, has come to an end. Commentary by Andrea Morello, Director Sea Shepherd Italy.

Sea Shepherd volunteers on Operation Siracusa 2015 with Andrea Morello, Enzo Maiorca, and Peter Hammarstedt. Photo Sea Shepherd Italia.

Sea Shepherd Italia's Operation Siracusa has come to an end.  During this campaign, 32 volunteers defended the Plemmirio Marine Reserve, and they cooperated closely with the Italian Customs Police, the Coast Guard, the Carabinieri*, the Italian Police, the Polizia Ambientale** and the Park Authority. The aim of Operation Siracusa is to protect, in particular, sea urchins and dusky groupers.

A total of 31 interventions were carried out in more than 45 days of direct action, and all of them put law enforcement authorities in a position to identify the offenders, record their actions, and report them to the judiciary authority. The poachers’ fishing gear and their diving equipment were confiscated when they were caught carrying out illegal actions within the total-protection area, where all human activity is forbidden.

As many as four divers were caught red-handed while they fished sea urchins illegally. A large amount of gear was confiscated, including nets, long-lines and fishing poles which belonged to poachers fishing from the cliff overlooking the total-protection area. This year during Operation Siracusa the Sea Shepherd trimaran M/V Brigitte Bardot was present in the Arethusan port, hosting tours for citizens of the area and tourists during the last four weekends. The trimarain welcomed a total of over 900 visitors, who not only wanted to see the vessel, but also to learn about Sea Shepherd's activities and about the organization's commitment to protect the oceans and marine environment as a whole.  

Finally, after four years of direct action by volunteers who, during the sea urchins' preservation periods of the year, acted in collaboration with local authorities, the goal achieved by the Plemmirio sentries is proven by the fact that this year there were no reports to the Coast Guard concerning crimes within the marine reserve, except for those made by Sea Shepherd's volunteers. When the campaign took place for the first time, during the very first days, the Coast Guard was called on the scene of a crime almost every day. A positive signal also comes from the local diving centers, that reassure us concerning the fact that the lawfulness of the marine reserve has been re-established, especially when Sea Shepherd is present.

"Now we shall regroup and make sure that the laws aimed at protecting  our clients are respected every day and every night.

Andrea Morello, Director Sea Shepherd Italy
Sea Shepherd volunteers on the cliffs above the Plemmirio Marine Reserve. Photo Sea Shepherd Italia.

We are proud to have Patrizia Maiorca both as a member of our Board of Advisors and as the President of the Marine Reserve. It's a strong signal which leaves no room for compromises regarding our will to protect this most important area. Our commitment to protect the sea urchins, that are currently in their reproduction season, and the dusky grouper, that is critically endangered, yielded excellent results. Now we shall regroup and make sure that the laws aimed at protecting  our clients are respected every day and every night. Enzo Maiorca used to say, ‘Land divides but the sea unites everyone.’ Our strength comes from unites the growing number of local volunteers and the ever-growing support by everyone who helps with donations, at sea our watchful eyes will continue to stand guard over Marine protection until the number of crimes stand by to zero.

I recall how Captain Peter Hammarstedt told me, when we launched this operation together in 2014, ‘Operation Siracusa is what Sea Shepherd is about. Every night, watchful eyes continue to stand guard over the Plemmirio Marine Reserve, eyes that look forward rather than looking away.  As these passionate volunteers work to spot the next poacher, I look upon them and I imagine that this is what Captain Paul Watson meant when he envisioned Sea Shepherd not as an organization but as a global movement.”


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