A Record 237 Illegal FADs Recovered in the Med

Thursday, 21 Oct, 2021

Sea Shepherd crew pulled a record 237 illegal FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) out of the Mediterranean Sea during the past two months of Operation Siso. This is just some of the deadly fishing gear retrieved each year by our volunteers in a sea that’s suffocating more and more by plastic.

Photo by Guido Cantini for Sea Shepherd Italia

FADs are made up of a plastic line anchored to the bottom of the sea that keeps large leaves afloat on the surface, attracting fish which gather beneath it. The fishermen then encircle the FAD with their nets, capturing every fish from the largest to the smallest – and often youngest, a slaughter that respects no limits and is carried out with the use of illegal equipment. And worse, the propylene line - which by law should be biodegradable - is the cause of death for many turtles, which often get entangled in it and die from suffocation or from the wounds they inflict on themselves trying to break free. The Med is also plagued by illegal spadare drift nets, true walls of death -- often abandoned at sea -- that unavoidably trap turtles, dolphins, sperm whales, fin whales and sharks.

Sea Shepherd Italy’s Operation Siso has been fighting these illegal fishing activities and remove as much plastic as possible from the Mediterranean over the past five years. In 2021 we’ve achieved record-breaking results thanks to the efforts of the tireless volunteers and crew onboard two ships from our fleet -- the M/Y Sea Eagle with the former Chief of State of the Italian Navy Admiral De Giorgi at the helm, and the M/Y Conrad under the command of Captain Roberta Pietrasanta – as well as the Hunter, a Rhib (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) capable of reaching 40 knots.

The success of the campaign was also made possible thanks to the support of Italy’s Ministry of Environment, the Italian Coast Guard, the Harbor Master’s Offices, and the Financial Police which assisted our volunteers throughout the operation. The Mayor of Palermo, who joined the M/Y Conrad in port to witness the disposal of tons of plastic retrieved from the sea, called this illegal fishing gear an environmental disaster, a sentiment echoed by the Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment, who came aboard our ship to thank the entire crew for the invaluable efforts made in recent months. In addition to the hard work by the volunteers and the recognition by local authorities, Operation Siso wouldn’t have been possible without the valuable financial contributions of Allianz, the Italian Buddhist Union, Davines S.p.A., Smile Wave, Iris Ceramica Group Foundation, Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni and Jane Patterson, Georgina Enthoven, and Valerie and Cyril, to name a few.

"237 FAD, some of them recovered along the Calabria coast, are now no longer a cause of death" exclaims with satisfaction and pride Andrea Morello, President of Sea Shepherd Italy, who emphasizes how this figure is an alarming index of plastic pollution of the Med’s Tyrrhenian Sea, where year after year Sea Shepherd Italy exceeds the previous year’s record. "These numbers were reached also thanks to a new weapon,” continues Morello. “The Zephyr aerial patrol that helps us to identify the spots where FADs get abandoned, and that has also allowed us to capture on film for the first time how the fishing nets are used with the FADs."

A sea choked with plastic and decimated by illegal fishing is a dying sea. "If the ocean dies, we die" is Sea Shepherd's warning that we cannot afford to ignore any longer.

Learn More About Operation Siso

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