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Greenpeace activist recovering after clash with fishermen at sea

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-06

A Greenpeace activist is recovering after surgery on Saturday for an injury caused by a grappling hook slung by French tuna fishermen as the activist tried to free endangered bluefin tuna from a commercial fishing net in the Mediterranean.

AFP - A Greenpeace activist was recovering in hospital in Malta on Saturday after surgery for an injury caused by a grappling hook slung by tuna fishermen in a clash at sea, he told AFP.
  
Frank Hewetson, 45, was trying to free endangered bluefin tuna from a commercial fishing net in the Mediterranean on Friday when the fishermen threw the hook at the Greenpeace dinghy he was in and it pierced his left leg, he said.
  
"I managed to pull the hook out myself," said Hewetson, who was admitted to St James Capua Hospital in Sliema, Malta, late Friday. "It was very painful."
  
The London resident added that doctors said he would have to remain in hospital at least another three days.
  
They fear an infection because the grappling hook was rusty and was used to extract tuna from nets, Hewetson said.
  
The environmental group said Friday that Hewetson and other Greenpeace activists were trying to lower the side of a purse seine net with sand bags to free the fish in a "non-violent" intervention when the clash occurred.
  
Hewetson said the fishermen used the grappling hook to pull his boat close to theirs, then "began beating us with sticks," without causing any serious new injuries.
  
The fishing boat, the Jean-Marie Christian VI, was one of several French tuna vessels in the area, in international waters off Malta, Greenpeace said in a statement.
  
Several boats surrounded the Greenpeace zodiacs, threatening them with knives attached to long poles, and some of the fishermen also fired flare guns at a Greenpeace helicopter hovering overhead to monitor, the statement said.
  
Greenpeace had stationed two ships in the Mediterranean, the Rainbow Warrior and Arctic Sunrise, to confront fishing boats during the short tuna catching season.
  
Bertrand Wendling, head of Sathoan, a cooperative of French tuna fishing boats including the one whose nets were targeted by Greenpeace, accused the group of interfering with a legal business activity and jeopardising the livelihoods of ordinary fishermen.
  
The Federation of Maltese Aquaculture Producers also slammed the Greenpeace activists, saying they had "sought confrontation, and got the confrontation they wanted."
  
Greenpeace "alone bear the blame for the consequences of yesterday’s incidents," the federation said in a statement.
  
Industrial-scale fishing and harvesting on the high seas has caused stocks of bluefin tuna to plunge by up to 80 percent in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, where they come to spawn in the warmer waters.
  
Many of the 100 boats that fish in the Mediterranean carry net cages to contain the tuna, which are then towed offshore to be fattened and shipped in giant freezer ships to Japan, where they are a mainstay of sushi and sashimi.
  
Earlier this year the European Union and the United States supported an international trade ban on tuna fished from these waters, but Japan lobbied successfully and the proposal was defeated.
  
France's national fisheries body backed the fishermen Saturday, saying they "were attacked by helmeted Greenpeace activists, equipped for and engaged in a violent operation -- the destruction of a work tool."
  
"After trying to get the species classified as endangered, based on an erroneous reading of the scientific facts regarding the stock of bluefin tuna, now (Greenpeace) assumes the right to attack fishermen out at sea," it added.
  
Sathoan's Wendling said fishermen need protection from Greenpeace.
  
"We have requested the French state intervene and ensure the security of our sailors," he said.
  
Jean-Marie Avallone, owner of the boat involved, accused Greenpeace of acting like "brigands."
  
As Greenpeace posted a video of the incident on the Internet, Wendling said Saturday that fishermen feared further action by environmentalist groups  competing for publicity and donations.
  
The US-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, one of whose militants is on trial in Japan after boarding a Japanese whaler, has vowed to take action against what it says is massive poaching of tuna above the agreed quotas.
  
Greenpeace lawyer Alexandre Faro said he would be lodging a complaint for alleged wounding and assault with Paris prosecutors on Monday.
  
A French fisheries ministry spokesman said the government deplored the clashes, calling for fishing to be allowed to continue in what he said was a strictly regulated legal framework.
  

Date created : 2010-06-06

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