The bluefin tuna fishery in the Mediterranean opened at one minute after midnight today and will close on June 14th or earlier if the allowed quota is reached prior to that date.
The legal quota is 13,500 tons, of which 7,113 tons has been allocated to European Union fishermen. Spain has been allocated 2,526.06 tons, France has been allocated 2,021.93 tons, and Italy has been allocated 1,937.50 tons.
We suspect that four times this tonnage will be taken with the illegal three quarters falling into the hands of poachers.
Sea Shepherd is well aware that Greenpeace has blockaded the port of Frontignan, France and has launched two ships to protest the fishing operations.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society does not believe that publicity stunts and harassment of legal fishing operations is the answer to the problem of saving the bluefin tuna from extinction.
"We did not come to the Mediterranean to hang banners and protest. Our job is to investigate, identify, and intervene against illegal fishing operations," said Captain Paul Watson. "We are an anti-poaching organization and not a protest group."
The Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin is presently at Cannes in France awaiting orders to depart to engage poachers. Meanwhile, Sea Shepherd field agents are investigating and building up a case for intervention.
The arrival of the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin has motivated action by Greenpeace and by the French and Italian governments.
"Because we made it known we were coming to the Mediterranean, Greenpeace decided to launch a preemptive attack by blockading harbors and pursuing legal fishing vessels," said Captain Paul Watson. "That is fine; that is what they do. However, we must take a more responsible approach and it is imperative that we identify and target the criminals. This requires patience and it requires not being tempted by easy publicity. I'm not interested in headlines, I'm interested in results."
Sea Shepherd France President Lamya Essemlali has been the co-organizer for Sea Shepherd's Operation Blue Rage in the Mediterranean, along with Sea Shepherd Netherlands Director Laurens De Groot, a former Rotterdam police officer.
"We are waiting to pounce upon the criminals, and when the time is right and the evidence supports it's, we will make our move. We have a strategy and we are acting upon that strategy," says De Groot.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society plans to have the Steve Irwin in the Mediterranean until mid-July addressing this crisis facing the bluefin tuna.
Steve Irwin in Cannes, France