Illegal Fishing Activity by Poachers Thwarted in the “A-Zone”
Following on from the incredibly successful 2014 campaign, Sea Shepherd Global launches Operation Siracusa 2015. Led by Sea Shepherd Italia, the campaign aims to defend the fragile ecosystem of the Plemmirio Marine Reserve, off the eastern coast of Siracusa in Sicily, against illegal fishing.
Already, the impact of the 2015 campaign has been felt. On Friday May 22, the first day of patrols for Operation Siracusa 2015, Sea Shepherd volunteers came across a vessel that they suspected to be engaged in illegal fishing activity. The vessel was discovered at night, with two divers close by in the water, at the border of the A-Zone – the maximum protected area in the Reserve.
Sea Shepherd immediately notified local authorities of the suspicious activity. When the Polizia Ambientale (the Environmental Police) arrived to investigate, they also spotted a van that had been positioned by the poachers to facilitate their escape.
Further reinforcements arrived courtesy of the Guardia di Finanza (the Financial Police), and the Coast Guard. The poachers attempted to escape by diving, leaving behind their vehicle and their gear, but were eventually apprehended after a nightlong search. Investigations are now underway.
The Plemmirio Marine Reserve was established in 2004 and extends along a 14-km coast trait, on the eastern coast of the Penisola della Maddalena (Siracusa). The reserve covers 2,429 hectares and is classified as an Area Specialmente Protetta di Interesse Mediterraneo (ASPIM), a name given to sites that are important for the conservation of bio-diversity in the Mediterranean. The region is also listed as an Area Marina di Reperimento, which means its conservation is deemed to be a priority.
The Reserve is a haven for marine life, including large pelagic fish such as tuna, greater amberjacks and sharks, as well as transient marine mammals, including sperm whales. Species that are most directly impacted by poaching in the region are the sea urchin and the dusky grouper, the latter being listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
During Operation Siracusa 2015, Sea Shepherd volunteers will patrol the territory along the coast of the Marine Reserve, identifying, documenting and reporting any poaching activity in the region. On days when poor weather does not allow coastal patrols, volunteers will engage in beach clean-ups to remove plastic and other garbage from the area.
Sea Shepherd will continue its successful cooperation with the authorities of the AMP Plemmirio (Plemmirio Marine Reserve), established during the 2014 campaign, which led to a total of 1,250 urchins being rescued, illegal fishing nets and fishing gear being confiscated, and poachers being slapped with fines for their crimes.
In 2015, Sea Shepherd is honored to once again receive the support of Enzo and Patrizia Maiorca on Operation Siracusa. Members of Sea Shepherd’s Board of Advisors and world freediving champions, Enzo and his daughter Patrizia are the igniting force behind the campaign. Passionate about the sea and its wonderful creatures, they are especially concerned for the fate of this delicate, threatened ecosystem.
CEO of Sea Shepherd Global, Alex Cornelissen stated, “For the second year, Sea Shepherd will be working with local law enforcement in Sicily to stop ongoing poaching operations in the Plemmirio Marine Reserve. After the enormous success of last year’s operation, Sea Shepherd volunteers have started with the same dedication and have already helped to realize the first arrests of the season. There is no doubt that under the watchful eyes of Sea Shepherd, no poacher can get away with plundering this important Marine Protected Area. Everybody in the Sea Shepherd movement once again awaits the further news from Sicily. No doubt, more arrests will follow and poaching will once again come to a full standstill.”
Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd’s Founder, spoke of the volunteers who took part in Operation Siracusa 2014, praising them as “passionate, courageous defenders of the life dwelling in our Oceans, people who do what they do not because they seek fame, and neither for money, but because they love this planet, because they love our Oceans and because they love the life that swims within these Oceans and flies above them.”
The Plemmirio is classified as an Area Specialmente Protetta di Interesse Mediterraneo (ASPIM), a name given to places that are important for the conservation of biodiversity in the Mediterranean, and also as an Area Marina di Reperimento, meaning an area the conservation of which is deemed to be a priority.
The Plemmirio Marine Reserve is divided into three zones, which enjoy different levels of protection: the A-Zone, the area in which the most rigid restrictions are in place, the B-Zone which has the second highest level of restrictions, and the C-Zone, where the rules are most lenient.
The A-Zone enjoys total protection. No vessels may enter it or be anchored there. No fishing, gathering of marine species, or diving is allowed. Spearfishing, both with aqualungs and by free divers, is forbidden in all three zones.