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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 August 2006, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Greenpeace 'siege' over in France
About 20 French fishing boats encircled the Rainbow Warrior II

French fishermen have agreed to lift their blockade of a Greenpeace ship off the southern port of Marseille.

About 20 boats surrounded the Rainbow Warrior II ship after it sailed to the area on Wednesday to highlight the alleged over-fishing of blue-fin tuna.

The blockade was being lifted after the crew agreed to be towed to an unknown location by a navy ship, officials say.

The fishermen have accused Greenpeace of exaggerating the risks to tuna stocks in the Mediterranean.

The dispute disrupted other vessels trying to use the port, including a number of cargo ships and ferries which were unable to set sail as planned.

Trading accusations

The French fishermen began their action on Wednesday morning, and threatened to intensify their protests.

They denied Greenpeace's claims that blue-fin tuna was in danger of extinction in the Mediterranean, and also blamed Asian crews for any quota breaches.

They're sitting on a diminishing pile of gold, but as long as there's any left they'll go on drawing from it, until it's all gone
Pierre Ramel
Greenpeace France

But Greenpeace France spokesman Pierre Ramel accused the fishermen of being in a state of denial about over-fishing.

"All this is a little pathetic. This is a form of censorship organised by a group of industrial fishermen who own very high-performing fleets and huge fishing resources, and they have no intention of allowing any challenges to large-scale, industrial fishing," he told France Inter Radio.

It is campaigning for an immediate ban on fishing to allow stocks to recover, and had wanted to enter Marseille to put its case.

The fishermen blame other countries for illegal fishing and say a ban would destroy their livelihoods.

A report by the WWF, the global environment campaign, said that last year, at least 40% more tuna was caught in the Mediterranean than is allowed by fishing quotas.

The report blamed French fishermen, as well as those from Turkey, Libya and other countries, for the over-fishing.

A French research institute has also said the fish stocks are being exploited in an unsustainable way, and says the growing fashion for sushi is to blame.

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29 May 03 |  Science/Nature

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