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Tuna industry bribing Maltese politicians, says Sea Shepherd founder

Tuna industry spokesman says Paul Watson welcome to prove allegations.

Matthew Vella
23 February 2012, 12:00am
Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson said Malta's politicians were being bribed by the tuna industry.


Sea Shepherd's founder Paul Watson has delivered a scathing judgement of Malta's political class, claiming the Bluefin tuna industry has been lining MPs' pockets to sanction their allegedly illegal fishing trade.

In an interview he gave to New Europe, Watson - who has led expeditions in the Mediterranean to scupper Maltese tuna ranches - referred to the Maltese tuna industry as a "whole illegal enterprise" that has the full support of the politicians "who are being bribed by these tuna fishermen".

Watson said overfishing of Bluefin tuna was making the industry richer by driving prices up as the species is driven closer to extinction, but that the EU, and Malta, were doing little to enforce conservation laws.

"The EU has all the rules and regulations that protect our oceans, however, what they do not have is enforcement. We have a lack of will on the part of governments to enforce international conservation law. They need to get out there and arrest the bastards.

"But, they are doing this because too much money is passing hands under the table going to many politicians in Europe, just like in Malta; there is no question that Maltese politicians are on the take."

Lawyer John Refalo, who represents the Maltese federation of aquaculture industry and launched the High Court lawsuit against Sea Sepherd, invited Watson to prove his allegations. "Firstly, our industry is not an illegal enterprise. We have a number of controls at EU and national level and anyone is welcome to see our operations and ensure we are in compliance with the law.

"Secondly, if Watson has any specific information of this alleged bribery he should file a report with the police. If he wants to allege we are lining MPs' pockets, he is welcome to prove it."

In his indictment, Watson referred to the lawsuit brought against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society by Maltese tuna ranchers for $1 million in damages after releasing over 800 tuna from one of their underwater cages."We were out there last year and the year before, and we found these fishermen breaking the law and intervened. We decided to release their illegal catch, but now we are in court in England because they are suing us for the loss of their catch.

"The ridiculous part about it is that our argument was based on that it was an illegal catch, but the court said that it did not matter whether it was illegal or legal. It said that we broke the law by releasing their illegal catch! So, it seems to be that the courts and the governments are more interested in protecting the interests of the illegal fishermen than to help conservationists to protect that species."

Sea Shepherd claim the cage from which the tuna were released in June 2010 contained 800 tuna caught by eight different Libyan registered seiners on the last day of the legal season, when weather conditions made it virtually impossible for the taking of tuna.

The Maltese tuna company Fish and Fish filed a civil lawsuit for damages in the English High Court, and managed to secure the detention of the Steve Irwin, the flagship vessel of Sea Shepherd, in Scotland. The environmental group paid £520,000 into court to secure its release.

Fish and Fish had estimated that the cost of losing 600 fish, weighing some 35 tons, coupled with the damage caused and the lawsuit, would reach €1 million.

Watson said the Sea Shepherd's rules of engagement are in line with the United Nations World Charter for Nature, which allows for NGOs and individuals to uphold international conservation law, specifically, in section 21(e), in areas beyond national jurisdictions.

During the inaugural Operation Blue Rage campaign in June of 2010, the Steve Irwin intercepted a tuna poaching operation off the Libyan coast. The Steve Irwin was also rammed by a Maltese fishery vessel Rosaria Tuna; photos released by Greenpeace, also on a similar mission depicted fishermen trying to violently gaff its crewmembers with a hooked pole (see picture below).

ATTIVISTA DI GREENPEACE FERITO DA PESCATORI DI TONNO ROSSO A MALTA

Matthew Vella is editor of MaltaToday.com.mt.

After graduating in a...

Nicholas Baldacchino
@not amused, Since when criticising others has become an insult, well i am person who have lived abroad for many years and can guarantee you that there is always someone behind all this sea sheperd crap, anyway i am not a person that sccept insults from foreigners who think that they rule smaller countries. It is a pity that my countrymen fall for these foreign interests. Can someone enlighten me who is to feed the fisherman hurt by the sea sheperds aggressive ramming of the sein?
not amused
@kola. No need to be over-sensitive on such subjects. If you take offense with such remarks resorting to out-of-point insults shows our immaturity in dealing objectively with our problems. After all when you are living abroad you should appreciate the priviledge that you will not be made to wear a muzzle. The Tuna Industry is a multi million dollar industry and Malta's shady role and especially our lack of self regulation is already raising a lot of eyebrows in Brussels.
not amused
@kola. No need to be over-sensitive on such subjects. If you take offense with such remarks resorting to out-of-point insults shows our immaturity in dealing objectively with our problems. After all when you are living abroad you should appreciate the priviledge that you will not be made to wear a muzzle. The Tuna Industry is a multi million dollar industry and Malta's shady role and especially our lack of self regulation is already raising a lot of eyebrows in Brussels.
Joe Borg
We have the best politicians money can buy!
Nicholas Baldacchino
Mr watson, it is better to start worrying about the problem of abortion in your country, in entering wars on lies, in selling arms to the third world country, and a list of others environmental disasters that your country is responsibile for. As for corruption well leave it in our hands, there is always an election and when time is right we will fight it. What about corruption in your country? Dont tell me that you are one of those who are coming from countries that colonised half the world, left us in the current sorry global conflicts, and is concentrating on a type of fish stock that is competing the British fish industry. Before slandering check that your house is in order first.
Nicholas Baldacchino
Mr watson, it is better to start worrying about the problem of abortion in your country, in entering wars on lies, in selling arms to the third world country, and a list of others environmental disasters that your country is responsibile for. As for corruption well leave it in our hands, there is always an election and when time is right we will fight it. What about corruption in your country? Dont tell me that you are one of those who are coming from countries that colonised half the world, left us in the current sorry global conflicts, and is concentrating on a type of fish stock that is competing the British fish industry. Before slandering check that your house is in order first.
Aristide Galea
Mr.Watson , what makes you think that our politicians can be bribed ? It must be a perception in your mind . It cannot be , not with our Prim MInister who declared zero tollerance against corruption . In fact he is preparing to introduce the Whistleblowwer Act with retroactive effect of 100 years so that everyone who suffered injustice in these last 100 years cad be able to came farward and report any corruption or bribery made by any Politician. By the way , you can conferm this with the result published by the Eurobaromiter in the last days . No corruption in Malta ? What a joke.
Rose Mallia
I'm appalled at the Maltese government and industry. You need to do a hell of a lot more to make fishing sustainable. Short sightedness will lead to an immense decline in fish in the long term. Sea Shepherd are one of the only world wide organisations trying to save sea mammals and fish from decimation. I'm Maltese and I'm truly disgusted by the politicians and greedy businessmen who are not doing the Maltese people any favours. You'll have no fish in the future and you'll wonder where you went wrong.
Charles Mifsud
Perhaps 'lining their belly' would have been more apt than 'lining their pockets'. Even though fish are said not to fatten.
Claude Caruana
Corruption? In Malta? Well slap me silly, whoever would have thought? The minister responsible for fisheries is in his good right to go yachting with whoever he wants. Honi soit qui mal y pense.
Claude Caruana
Corruption? In Malta? Well slap me silly, whoever would have thought? The minister responsible for fisheries is in his good right to go yachting with whoever he wants. Honi soit qui mal y pense.
godwin scerri
DAN WATSON FORSI QIAD JALLUDI GHAL XI WIEHED MP FIH TIFEL.
Steve Sant
Do tell us something we don't know. Of course now we'll get the usual foot soldiers throwing dirt at the Sea shepherd, like Daphne and the other clowns. Unfortunately there is too much greed and money.
Alex Grech
We simply attempt to be fearful when others are GREEDY and to be GREEDY only when others are fearful.