FishAct volunteers have just come back from Tunisia where they spent 11 days investigating illegal bottom trawling in the Gulf of Gabes (so called ‘Kiss trawling’), following up on  research conducted in the field in 2018. The investigation clearly uncovered the immense scale of the illegal fleet.

“Kiss Trawlers” in Sidi Mansour

This gulf along the Southern half of the Tunisian coastline, forms a unique ecological area due to its large shallow seas, the most important seagrass meadows in the  mediterranean sea, and some of the largest in the world. These areas form important spawning and nurturing grounds for countless local, but also migratory species, such as marine turtles and shark species with critical conservation status.

The gulf of Gabès is also home to a worldwide unique traditional passive “Charfia” fishing method on the Kerkennah Islands, which has been inscribed on the UNESCO representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Illegal shallow water bottom trawling directly harms these delicate ecosystems by catching fish in a very early life stage and physically wiping away the important seagrass meadows and its flora and fauna from the seafloor, threatening the ecology and economic sustainability of the Gulf of Gabes and the Mediterranean sea as a whole.

An 11 day investigation by a team of 4 dedicated volunteers was undertaken to quantify the scale of the illegal fishing issue and investigate the enforcement and governmental involvement with the issue.

A seemingly endless number of ports and piers along hundreds of kilometers of coastline were visited, many of them on multiple occasions, to determine the scale of the illegal fleet. Volunteers then went undercover to research how the enforcement agencies are equipped for their tasks in terms of materials, people and legal resources, and which loopholes and corrupt business methods facilitate the practice and the trade behind this IUU fishing case.

Volunteers in the port of Skhira

The team has come back with impressive results, which are being analyzed as we speak and will be published early next year. Keep an eye on our website, social media channels and/or subscribe to our newsletter.

The four passionate volunteers who made this investigation possible are looking back at a very effective campaign, an incredible adventure together, a very steep learning curve and two well spent weeks of their annual leave. Many thanks to the other volunteers who worked behind the scenes to help with the preparations, research and logistics and are now tirelessly working to assist with all the data analysis and outreach work.

A special thank you goes to our friends and allies in Tunisia. This project would not be possible without their help in both logistics and intelligence. We are happy and relieved to be back in the field after years of covid restrictions, and to see that FishAct is still able to run cost-efficient and effective undercover investigations to contribute to fighting IUU fishing and to the health of our seas.

A beautiful piece of protest art, showing the destruction of ‘kiss trawling’, in the port of Kraten, Kerkennah islands. By Mejbri Ahmed.

Comments are closed.