Another Whale Entangled in Illegal Fishing Net off Sicilian Coast

Monday, 27 Jul, 2020

Sea Shepherd Italia volunteers joined efforts to free a sperm whale from an illegal fishing net near the Aeolian Islands, an archipelago off the northern coast of Sicily.

Fury the Sperm Whale, photo by Carmelo Isgrò

The female sperm whale, known as “Fury”, was first spotted entangled in the fishing net by boaters on Saturday July 18th. They alerted the Italian Coast Guard, who arrived with several patrol boats along with divers Enrico Salierno of Sea Shepherd Italia and marine biologist Carmelo Isgrò.

For three days they attempted to cut free the stressed and struggling whale from the net that wrapped around her entire body (see video), but they lost sight of her in the night after she took longer and deeper dives with her tail still encased in the illegal net.

Fury isn’t the first whale to fall victim to illegal fishing nets in Italy’s Tyrrhenian Sea. Another sperm whale, dubbed “Spike” was freed from a similar net in January, and in 2017 the young sperm whale “Siso” died in a fishing net after the Coast Guard were unable to save him (his skeleton hangs as a reminder in the MuMa – Marine Museum– in Milazzo, Sicily). This death inspired the launch of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Siso in 2018 to protect the ecosystem of the Aeolian Islands – declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 – from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in cooperation with the Lipari Coast Guard and with the support of the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund. The ongoing campaign has resulted in the confiscation of hundreds of kilometers of illegal fishing gear and fish aggregating devices (FADs).

Enrico Salierno with Fury on the Hunter. Photo by Sea Shepherd.

“Although Fury has disappeared from our eyes, we can’t let her disappear from our minds,” says Salierno. Sea Shepherd Italia, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, will continue patrolling the waters around the Aeolian Islands with their boats, the Conrad and the Hunter, to fight against the illegal fishing practices responsible for the deaths of not only whales, but also dolphins, sharks, sea turtles and all marine wildlife.  

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