Greenpeace gives up in face of French blockade

24th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLE, France, Aug 24, 2006 (AFP) - Greenpeace was Thursday forced to give up trying to get its flagship, the Rainbow Warrior II, into the harbour of the southern French city of Marseille after a two-day blockade by French tuna fishermen and refusals from authorities.

MARSEILLE, France, Aug 24, 2006 (AFP) - Greenpeace was Thursday forced to give up trying to get its flagship, the Rainbow Warrior II, into the harbour of the southern French city of Marseille after a two-day blockade by French tuna fishermen and refusals from authorities.

The environmental activist group's ship was seen leaving the area under escort from a French coastguard tugboat.

A senior Greenpeace activist on the vessel, Francois Provost, said the Rainbow Warrior II was now heading to Cartegena in southern Spain.

Its attempt to dock in Marseille to campaign against overfishing of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean Sea sparked a protest blockade by French fishermen Wednesday.

They used more than 20 trawlers to encircle the Greenpeace ship and prevent it getting into the harbour.

The fishermen's action paralysed the southern city's busy port and left 1,000 people stranded there since late Wednesday because their ferries to Mediterranean destinations were unable to enter.

The fishermen only lifted the blockade after the Greenpeace vessel agreed to leave the area.

"The fishermen, based on Greenpeace's agreement to be towed, have agreed to move away," the prefet, or top regional government official, Christian Fremont, told journalists after a meeting with fishermen union representatives.

The organisation had called the French fishermen's blockade "illegal," even though it resembled the environmental group's own sea protests in the past against other vessels, notably those carrying nuclear waste or hunting whales.

Greenpeace had been planning on using its ship in Marseille's harbour for a public awareness campaign about the depleted stocks of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean sea.

A July report by an allied conservation group, the World Wide Fund for Nature, said bluefin tuna were in danger of disappearing from the region because of illegal catches by French, Turkish and Libyan boats.

The fish is prized in Japan and elsewhere, and is particularly used in sushi dishes. Many scientists agree the species is being overfished despite the imposition of quotas eight years ago.

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

Marseille authorities had refused permission to the Rainbow Warrior II to dock in the city's historic and commercial ports, citing security reasons, and the French coast guard had warned the ship to not anchor too close off-shore, deeming it a public disturbance.

A spokeswoman for Marseille's commercial port, Particia di Santo, told AFP that six ferries scheduled to arrive in the port early Thursday had to be re-routed to nearby Toulon to disembark passengers.

Five cargo ships were waiting off-shore because four others inside the port had been unable to leave, she added.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article