French fishermen accuse Greenpeace after harpoon incident

5th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

France's national fisheries body Saturday accused Greenpeace of attacking tuna fishermen in the Mediterranean, after the environmental group said one of its activists was harpooned.

The row broke out after Greenpeace said its volunteers tried to free tuna from a commercial fishing net in "non-violent" action Friday and that French fishermen had fired a harpoon through the leg of a British activist.

"The French fishermen were attacked by helmeted Greenpeace activists, equipped for and engaged in a violent operation -- the destruction of a work tool," France's National Maritime Fisheries Committee said in a statement.

"After trying to get the species classified as endangered, based on an erroneous reading of the scientific facts regarding the stock of bluefin tuna, now (Greenpeace) assumes the right to attack fishermen out at sea," it added.

It also said that the "harpoon" described by Greenpeace was in fact a boat hook.

Greenpeace said late Friday that the injured man, a British national identified by the group as Frank Huston, was transferred to a hospital in Malta where he was to undergo surgery Friday evening.

"His life is not threatened, but he is in serious condition," said Isabelle Philippe of Greenpeace France.

There was no immediate confirmation from Malta on the man's condition.

Greenpeace said that it had stationed two ships in the Mediterranean, the Rainbow Warrior and Arctic Sunrise, to confront tuna fishing boats during the short tuna fishing season.

Industrial-scale fishing and harvesting on the high seas has caused stocks of red tuna to plunge by up to 80 percent in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, where they come to spawn in the warmer waters.

Earlier this year the European Union and the United States backed an international trade ban on tuna fished from these waters, but Japan lobbied successfully and the proposal was defeated.

© 2010 AFP

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