Lampuki plunder: Peter Agius tells Brussels to monitor Tunisian poachers

MEP candidate Peter Agius calls on European Commission to monitor Lampuki landings in Italy, as Tunisian fishers sell their catch in European ports

MEP candidate Peter Agius has written to the European Commission calling for the tracking of Tunisian fishing vessels.

According to information received by Agius, as per recommendation by the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean (GFCM), funds from the European Union were disseminated to Tunisia in order for fishing vessels over 15 metres to be equipped with naval monitoring systems.

Agius called on the commission to verify whether such tracking systems were being used as intended.

“Can Tunisian authorities give detailed reports on fishing operations by Tunisian vessels in the North Western and South Western areas of the Mediterranean?” Agius asked the EU commission.

The MEP candidate also told the commission that in order to tackle illegal fishing, one has to analyse the market where the illegal produce is being sold.

War on the high seas: Tunisian plundering Maltese and Gozitan lampuki catches

Agius said that a number of Tunisian fishing vessels are heading towards Italian ports in order to sell their catch.

He called for a detailed report on Lampuki landings at Italian ports, particularly by Tunisian vessels who are authorised to carry out such sales.

“Is the EU commission in a position to identify and address suspected cases of fraud where unauthorised vessels are allowed to offload their catch in Italy?” Agius asked.

Peter Agius called on the monitoring of vessels leaving Tunisian seas and disembarking at Italian ports, and vice-versa.

He also stressed on spot-checks, after photos of Tunisian vessels near Maltese floatation devices surfaced once again.

In comments to MaltaToday on Wednesday, Fisheries Minister Anton Refalo said that despite earlier promises, government is not keen on sending the military to prevent the plundering, instead opting for a more diplomatic approach.

“We cannot just send the patrol boats there and create a conflict, no one wants that,” he said.

According to Refalo, the government is at a stage of data collection, where all the relative evidence is gathered in order for it to be presented at the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean (GFCM) later this month.

READ ALSO: Maltese armed forces to monitor lampuki fishing grounds for Tunisian raiders

Maltese lampuki fishers last year said their catches were plundered by Tunisian counterparts in what is a veritable war on the high seas.

Fishers reporting being threatened by the Tunisians wielding machetes and Molotov cocktails, and they documented the presence of a large, green Tunisian vessel, nicknamed Bin Laden, which threatened to ram Maltese boats.

One fisher, Arthur Micallef, had told MaltaToday in 2019 that he believed the Tunisians were receiving specific information from Malta on which lines and floats to fish on.

“They prey on areas along our lines where the fish is abundant. If I manage to catch around 100 crates of fish from particular floats until I offload the catch in Malta and return back to sea, there are already five Tunisian vessels in that same area,” Micallef said.

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