Greenpeace and French Fishermen End Row over Tuna
MARSEILLE, France Greenpeace and angry French fishermen ended a confrontation outside the French port of Marseille on Thursday that had disrupted shipping and threatened to cut off an important oil terminal.
Tuna fishermen had encircled the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior II outside the port in protest against the environmental group's campaign for a moratorium on tuna fishing.
Fishermen said it would threaten their livelihoods.
Under an agreement negotiated by French authorities, the Rainbow Warrior would take on fuel, spare parts, supplies and a change of crew before being escorted out of Marseille waters, officials and environmentalists said.
"This agreement has been accepted by the two parties, provides for the towing of the vessel outside the zone and allows for its resupply," Lieutenant-Commander Emmanuel Dinh of the local maritime authorities told Reuters.
The Rainbow Warrior II tried to enter Marseille on Wednesday to promote its campaign for a moratorium to preserve fish stocks, but about 25 tuna fishing boats encircled the ship and forced it further out to sea, before they blocked the port.
"Greenpeace was pretty provocative, as is often the case. ... Naturally that does not justify any violence," Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Dominique Bussereau said in Paris.
The fishermen also threatened to cut off another area of the port which houses an important oil terminal.
"The state has taken matters in hand. It will escort the Rainbow Warrior to a secure zone, then escort it to the open sea," said Greenpeace official Stephan Boescher.
A Greenpeace report this year said illegal fishing in the Mediterranean threatened to wipe out the bluefin tuna and called for an immediate halt to trawling to allow stocks to recover.
Another environmental organisation, the WWF, said in May that bluefin tuna catches in the Mediterranean had slumped by 80 percent compared with a year ago. It has urged a moratorium in both the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic.
Bussereau said France would support the fishermen's cause at an international conference on the tuna market in November and aim to assure fishing opportunities while safeguarding stocks.
"The tuna fishermen face a lot of difficulties since tuna is in great demand on the world market and fishermen from the world over come to the Mediterranean to look for tuna, particularly for the Japanese market," he said.
Marseille authorities decided last week to deny the Rainbow Warrior access to the harbour for security reasons but later partially relented, granting it permission to make a brief refuelling stop in the Mediterranean port.
The Rainbow Warrior II replaced the original Rainbow Warrior, which was sunk by French agents in Auckland harbour in New Zealand in 1985, killing a crew member.