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European Commission - Press release

Fisheries: Commission seeks Italy's compliance with Court ruling on illegal use of drift-nets in the Mediterranean

Brussels, 29 September 2011 - The European Commission calls on Italy to take measures and comply with an October 2009 Court of Justice ruling on Italy's continued illegal use of drift-nets. The Court found that Italy had failed to adequately control and enforce the EU ban on the use of drift-nets. Safeguarding of fish stocks and the eradication of illegal fishing practices are crucial priorities for the EU, and the Commission, in particular Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, deeply regrets Italy's long-standing infringement of the drift-net ban, which dates from 1992. If no satisfactory actions are taken within two months from the receipt of the Commission's letter, the Commission may refer this case to the Court of Justice again, this time asking the Court to impose significant financial penalties on Italy in accordance with the Treaty rules.

Fishing with illegal gear such as drift-nets is highly destructive, as it ruins marine habitats, endangers marine wildlife and threatens sustainable fisheries. Illegal fishing practices ruin the income of honest fishermen and coastal communities - and the future of fisheries altogether. Therefore, in the interest of all, implementation and enforcement of the rules are at the heart of the Commission priorities.

Despite persistent calls on Italy to fulfil its monitoring and enforcement tasks adequately with regard to illegal drift-nets, recent on-site inspections did not show any significant improvements as compared to the situation before the Court's judgement. The Commission's verifications indicate that drift-nets are still used illegally in Italy in large numbers, and that actions taken by national authorities are neither sufficient, nor efficient enough to deter their use.


The origins of this case go back to 1992, when the EU adopted the drift-net ban prohibiting the use of drift-nets of over 2,5 km in length (in response to a 1991 UN General Assembly moratorium on large pelagic drift-nets).

Since then, the EU has constantly toughened its anti-drift-net rules to address growing concerns about this fishing technique, which is highly non-selective (high degree of by-catches of non-targeted species) and therefore poses a threat to the conservation of many fish stocks, and marine mammals. As from January 2002, the EU has completely banned the use of drift-nets, irrespective of their length, intended for the capture of certain fish stocks, such as albacore, bluefin tuna and swordfish.

More information:

EU fisheries policy:

Latest information on infringement proceedings concerning all Member States :

For more information on infringement procedures, see MEMO/11/646

Contacts :

Oliver Drewes (+32 2 299 24 21)

Lone Mikkelsen (+32 2 296 05 67)

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