Sea Shepherd Undertakes Med FAD Campaign

Credit: Sea Shepherd
Credit: Sea Shepherd

By The Maritime Executive 10-13-2018 06:22:21

Sea Shepherd has undertaken a campaign working with local authorities to remove fishing aggregating devices (FADs) from the waters of the Aeolian Islands in the Mediterranean Sea.

The organization's M/V Sam Simon carried out an undercover operation in the South Tyrrhenian Sea in collaboration with the Maritime Management Port Authority of Catania, Lipari Coast Guard and the Italian Revenue and Custom Authorities Milazzo. The 178-hour patrol led to the removal of 52 illegal FADS along with 100 kilometers of polypropylene line.

The FADs, which are locally called “cannizzi,” are fixed buoys to which palm branches or similar materials are attached to form a shelter under which high-seas fish gather. Considered a threat to both marine life and local, legal fishing, they are illegal in the Aeolian waters at this time of the year, and regulated at other times. 

It is estimated that more than 1,500 FADs are illegally anchored each year. They are considered to be a key contributor to plastic pollution in the Italian Sea and are potentially lethal for marine species such as Loggerhead sea turtles that can become entangled during migration. Each FAD is made of four to six plastic drums with palm leaves as a floating part and a line up to 3,000 meters long of approximately 3.5mm diameter and anchored to the seabed. The FADs results in 2,000 kilometers of polypropylene line, and hundreds of kilos of plastic and bottles (often dirty and containing harmful chemical liquids) being dropped in the sea.  

The Aeolian Islands were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. They include an archipelago of seven inhabited islands and several smaller islands and rocky outcrops. The seven islands are located in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea, north of Sicily – just 12 nautical miles from Milazzo Cape. All of volcanic origin, they provide habitat for the nesting of many migratory bird species and for a variety of whales and dolphins. 

Sea Shepherd has named their campaign Operation Siso - the name given to a young sperm whale (8.5 meters long) that died in 2017 entangled in a drift net during his migration close to the Aeolian Islands. The Coast Guard struggled to free him for many hours, but he could not be saved. SISO was later found dead along the coast of Milazzo Cape by the marine biologist Carmelo Isgro’ who saved the bones, keeping the net that killed him and the plastic that was in his stomach as a warning for future generations. "Siso" was the name of the friend that helped Carmelo retrieve the Sperm Whale, a friend who died in a car accident shortly after.

The Chairman of the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund, Luca Del Bono, said: “I am thrilled that from a casual meeting in California a collaboration with Sea Shepherd was born, and we look forward to a long-term partnership for the protection of the sea of our islands. I want to thank the organization and Andrea Morello in particular for believing in our mission.” Smile Wave, a Swiss foundation, supports both Sea Shepherd and the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund projects.