French Tuna Fishermen Block Marseille Port
MARSEILLES, France French tuna fishermen angry at a campaign by Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior II for a moratorium on tuna fishing blocked access to the port of Marseille on Wednesday, forcing ferries and cargo ships to suspend journeys.
The fisherman, who want the Rainbow Warrior II to leave the waters around Marseille where it has been campaigning for the moratorium, also threatened to cut off another area of the port which houses an important oil terminal.
"The tuna ships are stopping access to the south and the north of the Port of Marseille and are stopping all traffic," said a spokesman for the port.
Two passenger ship were stuck in the harbour and the departure of 11 other cargo ships and ferries was suspended.
"In the next few hours we will take care of the terminals at Fos-sur-Mer," said the president of the union of Mediterranean tuna fisherman, Mourad Kahoul.
Fos-sur-Mer houses the Fos-Lavera Mediterranean oil hub. It was blocked for several weeks last year during a strike by ferry workers disrupting oil refining.
The Rainbow Warrior II tried to enter the port of Marseille earlier as part of a campaign for a moratorium on tuna fishing. Some 25 tuna fishing boats circled the ship at it neared land, forcing it further out to see, before blocking the port.
"They clearly want to make us leave," said Yannick Jadot, a Greenpeace spokesman who was monitoring the standoff from a motor launch. "Not only are their fishing practices illegal, but also their comportment in the sea lanes," he added.
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 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 waters.
The fishermen reject the accusations of illegal fishing and say the proposals would destroy their trade.
Marseilles 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 1985, killing a crew member.
Greenpeace has been travelling around the Mediterranean to promote its tuna campaign and had hoped to spend two days in Marseilles.