PARIS?A Greenpeace activist trying to free tuna from a commercial fishing net in the Mediterranean was harpooned through the leg by fishermen on French boat, the environmental group said Friday.
"In a non-violent action, Greenpeace activists in zodiac boats attempted to lower the side of a purse seine net with sand bags to free the fish," said Isabelle Philippe of Greenpeace France.
"At that moment, fishermen violently attacked the activists, harpooning one of them through the leg," she told Agence France-Presse by phone.
The injured man, a British national, was transferred to a hospital in Malta where he was to undergo surgery Friday evening.
"His life is not threatened, but he is in serious condition," Philippe said.
The fishing ship, the Jean-Marie Christian VI, was one of several French tuna vessels in the area when the attack occurred in international waters near Malta, she added.
Some of the fishermen also fired flare guns at a Greenpeace helicopter hovering overhead to monitor, she said.
About 100 fishing vessels navigate the Mediterranean during a short tuna fishing season that lasts from mid-May to mid-June.
Many of the boats carry net cages used to encircle the tuna swarms, which are then towed offshore to be fattened and shipped in giant freezer ships to Japan, where it is a mainstay of sushi and sashimi.
Industrial-scale fishing and harvesting on the high seas has caused stocks to plunge by up to 80 percent in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, where they come to spawn in the warmer waters.
Earlier this year the European Union and the United States backed an international trade ban on tuna fished from these waters, but Japan lobbied successfully and the proposal was defeated.