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News | Wednesday, 27 January 2010 Issue. 148

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Sicilian fisherman ‘ruined’ by €35,000 fine

A Sicilian fisherman claims to have been ‘ruined’ by a court judgement yesterday that imposed a fine of €35,000 for admitting to having cast his nets inside Malta’s exclusive fishing zone, that extends up to 25 miles from the coast.
Skipper Francesco Giacalone, 44 from the Northwestern port of Mazara del Vallo in Sicily, was intercepted at sea with his five crew members last Monday on board the 60 foot Italian-registered trawler ‘Mamma Maria’ by an Armed Forces Patrol boat.
According to 64-year old engine-master Giuseppe Giordano, who spoke to MaltaToday from the trawler’s deck at Ta’ Liesse quay in Valletta’s Grand Harbour, “we didn’t know that Malta had such a vast exclusive fishing zone, as we are only used to what is the norm in many countries, that is, 12 miles from shore.”
Giordano, who stressed that the boat’s crew was never involved in any issues of jurisdiction before, and begged for the Maltese authorities to show clemency in genuine cases such as this.
Visibly shaken by the court’s decision to fine him €35,000, the skipper Francesco Giacalone said that such a fine was “the end” for him and his family, given that for a simple fisherman “the figure is tantamount to earnings of five years.”
The matter was handled by the Valletta Police and the Fisheries Department headed by director Andreina Fenech Farrugia, who was in constant contact with the Mazara del Vallo fisheries official Nicola Lesma.
Italian Ambassador Paolo Andrea Trabalza also intervened in the matter, and assisted the skipper and the crew.
Contacted by MaltaToday, Marsaxlokk Fishermen Cooperative President Ray Bugeja expressed his disappointment at such fines imposed on fishermen.
“These are simple fishermen who spend days at sea to earn a living, braving rough seas away from their families.
“Why is it that the courts never take into account the fact that these fishermen have never been involved in such breach of jurisdiction?” he asked, while adding that the fine, added with the confiscation of all the fish the ‘Mamma Maria’ had aboard meant the crew and faced “certain ruin.”
“These are fishermen who certainly didn’t commit murder or traffic drugs, so why impose such fines which are obviously going to destroy honest families, rather than just give a warning over a genuine mistake?” Bugeja said.
Last July, another Sicilian fisherman, Rosolino Paternostro was fined €40,000 and imprisoned for a week after been found guilty of fishing illegally in Maltese territorial waters.
The issue had irked the Italian fishing community, who also retaliated by refusing to cooperate at sea with Maltese fishermen.
The matter prompted the Italian Foreign under-secretary Vincenzo Scotti to order all mays in Sicilian port-towns not to be heavy-handed with Maltese boatsmen and to stop the retaliation.


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