We Don’t Stop: Six Years Protecting the Italian Coast from Poachers

Friday, 26 Apr, 2019

A poacher fishing with an illegal net in Zone C was arrested during Operation Siracusa, the Sea Shepherd campaign that aims to protect the fragile ecosystem of the Plemmirio Marine Protected Area in Syracuse, Italy. Another action making the difference and saving precious lives was conducted jointly by Sea Shepherd volunteers and the local Coast Guard that promptly intervened to arrest the poacher, who was then fined and his illegal fishing gear confiscated. Commentary by Campaign Leader Andrea Morello, and video by Sea Shepherd Italia.

Reports by the UN indicate 2048 as the year during which all global marine species will collapse, if ocean exploitation and climate change persist at the current pace. The interdependence of all marine species is fundamental for the biodiversity of the oceans themselves, that in turn provide more than half of the oxygen that we all breathe. This means that every single species is vital for the equilibrium of our planet. The embeddedness in the Western industrial reality represents a dangerous threat to the Mediterranean Sea and its unique ecological characteristics. Protective measures, such as specific legislation in marine protected areas, are the only means currently implemented. However, the ability to enforce the same laws, an activity often delegated to national law enforcement, is very limited if assigned to organizations that are required to tackle many other emergencies at sea at the same time. As a matter of fact, environmental crimes cannot be effectively persecuted. A solution to the chronic problem of lack of enforcement is the organized passion and know-how offered by Sea Shepherd volunteers, that - with the coordination of official law enforcement agencies - united by the Jolly Roger, from Syracuse to the Galapagos Islands, from Indonesia to Antarctica, have proven to be incredibly effective.

This was the case also in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Plemmirio in Syracuse, a sanctuary for many endangered species where the boundaries of the MPA were systematically violated by poachers, until 2014.

Agencies like the Environmental Police, the Coast Guard or the “Guardia di Finanza” do not have the means to protect the MPA. Civil engagement, immigration and territorial control absorb completely the resources available to these institutions, leaving no time to take care of environmental crimes.

In 2014, Sea Shepherd launched “Operazione Siracusa”, with the explicit goal of stopping poaching in such an important ecosystem for the Mediterranean Sea.

Besides the naturalistic importance of the area, Syracuse and the Plemmirio hide an invaluable treasure represented by its historical heritage: traditions, mosaics, old churches, millstones, temples and ancient theaters that, together with its submerged cathedrals, represent an immense wealth.

A crossroads of Mediterranean since the ancient age, Syracuse has seen people from different civilizations alternate and mix, leaving their permanent mark.

Today we are here, in this crossroads of history, to fight another battle: the battle for legality, for the defense of the sea and the protection of future generations.

The sixth year of relentless anti-poaching activity, in cooperation with Italian authorities, is revealing how poachers are retreating to peripheral areas (Zone C). This is the right time to win our war, with the support of hundreds of organized volunteers, equipped with passion and determination. We shall increase our patrolling activities and deploy our sea guardians in every corner of the coastline, ready to call the authorities whenever they spot any sign of danger for our clients. We will win because we do not back away. We will win because each and every person participating in our campaign is determined to defend life in the oceans as much as the lives of their own children. We will win because our donors – allowing us to stay on patrol, to buy binoculars, gear and food – are increasing in number and in their determination to enforce laws and regulations.

This video (below) shows the organization and preparation behind our anti-poaching activity: we will not stop until these illegal activities will end! Whoever is willing to help us is welcome: we will have more watchful eyes looking towards a future of lawfulness and sustainability for our future generations, because we depend on the ocean.

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