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Greenpeace to Leave French Port After Tuna Protests

Date: 24-Aug-06
Country: FRANCE
Author: Jean-Francois Rosnoblet

Several ferries and cargo ships were forced to suspend their journeys and the fishermen also threatened to cut off an important oil terminal if the Rainbow Warrior II did not leave.

"We hope to end the tension and calm things down," said Greenpeace spokesman Yannick Jadot, who announced the ship would leave Marseille on Thursday evening.

The fishermen said they would maintain the blockage until the ship had gone.

"We are not letting up. If tomorrow, the ship hangs around, we will also close the oil terminal at Fos-sur-Mer," said Mourad Kahoul, the president of the Union of Mediterranean tuna fishermen.

Two passenger ships were stuck in the harbour and the departure of 11 other cargo ships and ferries was suspended after the fisherman blocked the port on Wednesday.

The Rainbow Warrior II tried to enter Marseille port as part of its campaign. Some 25 tuna fishing boats circled the ship as it neared land, forcing it further out to sea, before they blocked the port.

In a report published earlier this year, Greenpeace said illegal fishing in the Mediterranean threatened to wipe out bluefin tuna and called for an immediate moratorium on trawling to allow stocks to recover.

Another environmental group, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), warned in May that bluefin tuna catches in the Mediterranean had slumped 80 percent compared with a year ago. It has urged a moratorium in both the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic.

The fishermen reject the accusations of illegal fishing and say the proposals would destroy their trade.

Marseille authorities decided last week to deny the Rainbow Warrior access to their harbour for "security reasons" but later partially relented, granting it permission to make a brief "technical" stop in the southern Mediterranean port city.

The Rainbow Warrior II is the ship that replaced the original Rainbow Warrior, which was sunk by the French secret services in Auckland harbour in New Zealand in 1985, killing a crew member.

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