The Mediterranean Sea is among the world’s most overfished regions. Ensuring sustainable practices requires adherence to fishing rules, particularly in an expansive sea dotted with national boundaries. The Ocean Sentinel, managed by the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), patrols the Adriatic Sea’s international waters between Italy and Croatia. Ocean Sentinel’s mission is to oversee adherence to marine regulations.
Andrea Patalano, EFCA’s control operations coordinator, elaborates on the vessel’s purpose. Andrea stated, emphasizing the benefit of sharing insights and unifying inspection methodologies:
“The European Union patrol vessel allows member countries to deploy their inspectors.”
The inspection team comprises diverse experts, including a Croatian fishery inspector, Domagoj Bojko, who underscores the importance of collaboration.
“We exchange knowledge and work together, essential in a shared sea like the Adriatic.”
During Ocean’s observation with EFCA in the Mediterranean, two fishing boats are approached for inspection. These boats, mostly family-run, provide anchovies and sardines to European markets. Captain Dario Lacchini welcomes inspections, emphasizing their role in ensuring rule adherence.
Inspections encompass various elements, from verifying licenses to checking fishing equipment. Nicola Bavila, an Italian Coast Guard fishery inspector, notes that the goal isn’t to penalize but to promote consistent compliance. He highlights that many fishermen are compliant and open to inspections.
Collaboration extends beyond inspections. EFCA, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), and Frontex work in synergy, sharing data to pinpoint vessels that might not adhere to regulations. Susan Steele, EFCA’s executive director, commented:
“No one can inspect every vessel. We optimize inspections by understanding the risk profiles of vessels.”
The Ocean Sentinel is equipped for diverse challenges. For instance, EMSA’s equipment prepares them for oil spill emergencies. EFCA’s aircraft and Frontex boats further supplement their operations.
Drones play a pivotal role in monitoring, capturing aerial views without alerting fishermen. Andrew Jørgensen, drone pilot from Nordic Unmanned, says:
“Most vessels remain unaware of the drone.”
In one instance, an Italian fishing boat, flagged for priority inspection, was found with several infractions, highlighting the necessity of these operations. Andrea Patalano emphasizes the subsequent procedures, which involve more in-depth national inspections and potential penalties.
In 2022, EFCA organized almost 50,000 inspections across the EU, revealing over 5,000 violations. However, compliance among fishermen is improving. Effective collaboration is instrumental in these controls, ensuring future generations can still enjoy the sea’s bounties.
Andrea sums it up:
“There’s an increasing understanding of the importance of following rules for everyone’s benefit, but there’s more work ahead, which is why we’re here.”