Lampuki fishers still facing Tunisian nuisance despite patrols

Fisher who spoke to MaltaToday says at least eight vessels were spotted fishing on his lines

The Tunisian fishermen were spotted fishing on Maltese lines in the sea off the South West coast of Malta
The Tunisian fishermen were spotted fishing on Maltese lines in the sea off the South West coast of Malta

Maltese lampuki fishers are still being harassed by their Tunisian counterparts, despite patrols by a European fisheries vessel intended to put an end to poaching.

A lampuki fisher who spoke to MaltaToday said that while out at sea on Thursday last week, at least eight Tunisian vessels were fishing on his fishing lines (known as rimja in Maltese).

“I got a sore throat trying to call the Lundy Sentinel on Channel 16,” he said in a desperate tone. “But it was all for nothing.”

Earlier this month, the fisheries ministry announced European fisheries vessel, the Lundy Sentinel, will be patrolling the Mediterranean in a bid to curb fishing illegalities on the high seas.

The patrols will be carried out through a pilot project conducted by the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) under the auspices of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM).

The agreement between the Maltese government and fishing regulatory bodies to have a patrol boat inspecting fishing grounds comes after MaltaToday started reporting on how Maltese lampuki fishers had seen their catches plundered by Tunisian counterparts in what was a veritable war on the high seas. The Maltese say they were threatened by the Tunisians wielding machetes and threatening to set their boats alight with Molotov cocktails.

The monitoring vessel will be carrying out inspections until the end of September. The lampuki fishing season began on August 15 and runs until the end of December.

The fisher, who spoke to MaltaToday on condition of anonymity, said he hoped the patrol vessel would bring an end to the conflict with Tunisian fishers.

He said the Tunisian fishers were spotted in the area off the South West region of Malta, with no less than eight boats appearing on his vessel’s radar system.

“We tried to manoeuvre around them, but they were quite the nuisance,” he said. “When I asked if he (the Tunisian captain) was fishing on his own ċima (float), he just stayed quiet, because he knew it was mine.”

Questions on the incident have been sent to the fisheries minsitry.