Protesters from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are reported to have attempted to free tuna being towed in pens.
Speaking to the Maltese press Dr Lawrence Gonzi, the Maltese Prime Minister, said: “The government can never ever tolerate a situation where Maltese fishermen going about their work according to local and international law are attacked and hindered.”
Sea Shepherd’s Captain Paul Watson, however, hit back.
“With all due respect Dr. Gonzi, these were not Maltese fishermen going about their business according to the law. This was an unlawful catch, taken after 14 June when the season was closed," captain Watson said.
He said it was too convenient that the cage contained 800 Buefin caught by eight different Libyan registered seiners all on 14 June.
And he called for explanations from the Maltese government about how it was possible for the eight vessels to take their catch to the net on the smae day given local weather conditions.
The Maltese prime minister said that as long as the Maltese fishermen operate according to the law, they will have the protection of the government with all available resources and also the protection of the international community.
He said that while the government respected the right of the activists to protest, they could not take illegal action.
The Sea Shepherd captain said that the fishermen were not operating according to the law but were poaching.
"Since neither Malta nor ICCAT have any authority to inspect the catch in Libyan waters, the Maltese government has no credibility in stating that this catch was legal. Papers can be forged and there were no government observers on the vessels," he said.
He said they only acted against what they saw as illegal fishing.
Reports sid that teh Sea Shepherd ship rammed the cage, but Captain Watson said that they only put the bow of the vessel up to the net to observe what it ocntained.
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