French fishermen blockade Greenpeace vessel

23rd August 2006, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLE, France, Aug 23, 2006 (AFP) - Fishermen in the southern French port city of Marseille on Wednesday used Greenpeace's own tactics against it by preventing the environmental activist group's flagship from docking.

MARSEILLE, France, Aug 23, 2006 (AFP) - Fishermen in the southern French port city of Marseille on Wednesday used Greenpeace's own tactics against it by preventing the environmental activist group's flagship from docking.

An AFP journalist saw 21 tuna fishing vessels circling Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior II and stopping it from moving into Marseille's harbour.

"This is an illegal act, breaking several laws," Greenpeace's director of campaigns, Pierre Ramel, told AFP by telephone.

The fishermen oppose Greenpeace's plans to campaign in Marseille against overfishing of red tuna.

A July report by an allied conservation group, the World Wide Fund for Nature, said red tuna were in danger of disappearing from the Mediterranean because of illegal catches by French, Turkish and Libyan boats. The fish is prized notably in Japan.

Many scientists agree that the species is being overfished despite the imposition of quotas eight years ago.

"The species is being exploited in an unsustainable way," Philippe Gros, the director of the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer), said. The "fad" for sushi was largely to blame, he added.

But Marseille's tuna fishermen deny that red tuna is in danger of extinction and say that Asian groups using Spanish dummy companies are responsible for any quota breaches, not them.

Rainbow Warrior II initially obtained permission to dock in Marseille's historic port close to the centre of the city, but that was retracted on security grounds.

The city's larger commercial port has refused to give authorisation to the ship to dock there because "it is not a commercial ship."

Faced with the tuna boat blockade, the Rainbow Warrior II was anchored offshore.

Greenpeace activists on board were seen taking photos of the opposing vessels, while three police boats were stationed nearby.

Ramel said the blockade was preventing the Rainbow Warrior II from making a an authorised brief stop in the port to fill its water tanks and obtain equipment.

But Mourad Kahoul, a municipal councillor and the head of a tuna fishermen's union involved in the protest, said they would give the Greenpeace vessel just "two hours" to get out those provisions.

"And then -- happy sailing for its next propaganda port of call," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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