Confiscating Illegal Longlines in Calabria

Thursday, 16 Jun, 2022

Operation SISO is now at its fifth campaign, with two ships in the Italian seas and ground crew onshore. The first successful action took place March 26th, just a few weeks after starting patrols onboard the M/Y Sea Eagle. That afternoon the Sea Shepherd crew, who had been cleared to proceed by the Guardia di Finanza - Naval Command of Vibo Valentia, located and disarmed an unreported and unidentified – and therefore illegal – longline off the Calabrian coast.

Sea Shepherd crew onboard the Swordfish fast boat. Photos by Sea Shepherd. Scroll for more images.
Detail of the line and hook with ball floater. Photos by Sea Shepherd.
La Guardia die Finanza arrives at the longline flag. Photos by Sea Shepherd.
A blue shark and the squid used as bait on the longline. Photos by Sea Shepherd.

This type of fishing equipment consists of a main line that can be up to several kilometers long and hundreds of secondary lines, each one rigged with a hook and bait for attracting fishing swordfish and tuna. In order to lure these highly valuable species live bait is often used, such as squid and bluefish.

As the night set in, our crew discovered a second longline. Despite the sea conditions becoming rougher as the night wore on, the volunteers worked tirelessly to pull in an additional two kilometers of line, carefully handling hundreds of dangerous hooks.

This time we arrived on time: none of the animals we freed from the hooks were dead. However the ones used as bait weren’t as lucky. The fate of all the flying squid used to lure the fish was to return, lifeless, into the same sea we protect every day.

Sea Shepherd crew remove a hook from a sea turtle. Photos by Sea Shepherd. Scroll for more images.
Pulling in the longline with squid bait on the hooks. Photos by Sea Shepherd.
Sea Shepherd crew working late into the night to retrieve all of the line. Photos by Sea Shepherd.
The bridge of the M/Y Sea Eagle while on patrol at night. Photos by Sea Shepherd.

The retrieval operations were carried out in cooperation with the authorities, who allowed us to remove 130 kilometers of main line and 2000 hooks form the secondary lines from the sea. The lines didn’t have any identification or licenses, which made it impossible to track down those who deployed them.

In these circumstances, the activities are considered Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The devastation that a single longline can cause to the ecosystem is immense.  Lett alone the impact it has on the species being targeted, too often this fishing technique also affects protected species, such as sea turtles. That’s why we remain on high alert during the bluefin tuna fishing season, when we expect to find more of this type of fishing gear.

Thanks to the unwavering commitment of the volunteers involved in Operation Siso over the past five years, we have been able to retrieve countless driftnets, 1276 FADs (fish aggregating devices) and 1560 kilometers of lines and plastic wires, from Italian waters. This year’s operation involves almost forty volunteers from all over Europe, who work night and day to fight poachers – and others who violate the laws protecting the ocean – through direct action.

Learn more about Operation Siso

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