French fishermen obtain in Brussels the maintenance of bottom trawling in marine protected areas

The European Commission has given up on its plan: bottom trawling in marine protected areas will not finally be banned by 2030

French fishermen obtain in Brussels the maintenance of bottom trawling in marine protected areas

The European Commission has given up on its plan: bottom trawling in marine protected areas will not finally be banned by 2030. Fishermen and the French government obtained, on Sunday April 2, that this measure not be applied, which would have put, according to them, the whole sector in danger.

On Sunday, the Secretary of State for Fisheries Hervé Berville, who had publicly declared himself "solidarity" with the fishermen, met in Brussels with the European Commissioner for the Environment and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius, accompanied by senior fisheries representatives. French. The commissioner “confirmed” that he would not impose such a ban “neither in 2024 nor in 2030,” Berville said in a statement after the meeting.

Announced on February 21 as part of a more general action plan to "green the fishing sector", the measure aimed to protect fish, shellfish and crustaceans, but also turtles and seabirds threatened by the use of mobile bottom gear (trawls, dredges, longlines, pots, etc.), in areas that should cover up to 30% of European waters in 2030.

Brussels denounced fishing that consumes a lot of fuel and emits a lot of CO2, which, by scraping the seabed, destroys ecosystems that themselves constitute carbon sinks, weakens the populations of fish that shelter and reproduce there, and promotes "disproportionate" bycatch due to lack of selectivity. The Commission then asked Member States to plan to adopt measures to "phase out" this controversial fishery.

Paris "not forced to take prohibition measures"

The action plan for sustainable fisheries presented by the Commission "only proposes guidelines for the Member States", recalled the Commissioner, quoted on Sunday by the French minister who stressed that "France will therefore not be forced to take measures prohibition". In a letter addressed to all the fishermen of France on Friday, the Secretary of State had welcomed the efforts they have been making for several years in favor of a "binding and demanding management" of fishery resources. "More than half" of fish stocks are sustainably exploited today in France, compared to "only 11%" twenty years ago, he noted.

With the announcement on Sunday, "there is a real consideration of the efforts undertaken for years by French fishermen for the protection of biodiversity and marine ecosystems", welcomed Agence France-Presse Olivier Le Nézet, president of the national fisheries committee, contacted by telephone. According to him, these prohibition measures would have amounted to "punishing good students".

“France has multiplied protected areas, reduced fishing in certain areas and favored the renewal of species. In the Iroise Sea, the lobster, which had disappeared, has returned, the scallop shell is abundant everywhere,” he recalled recently.

Muscular demonstrations

On March 20, some of the member states of the European Union (EU) criticized the Commission's plan. "We share the concern to defend ecological interests but we need balanced regulations (...), we need a future for fishing, the basis of the existence of coastal populations and creator of added value far beyond the fishermen", had judged the German minister, Cem Ozdemir. "This total ban goes too far, it would largely eliminate crab fishing, an important tradition in our country and an important source of income," he pleaded.

The measure angered fishermen in France, but also in Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Denmark. The European Bottom Fishing Alliance (EBFA) estimated that the ban would have put "7,000 vessels at risk" or "25% of the [fishing] volumes landed and 38% of the total income of the European fleet". In France, according to the National Fisheries Committee, such a measure would have caused the disappearance of nearly "a third of the fleet", or 4,000 fishermen on board 1,200 vessels.

He had called on Thursday and Friday for an unprecedented "dead line" operation, with boats remaining at the quay and fish auctions and processing operations at a standstill, to demand responses to the fishing crisis, in particular on this subject. Strong demonstrations took place in Rennes or Lorient as well as blockages in Boulogne-sur-Mer to protest against regulations accused of "banning trades, traditions, economies, and ultimately human heritage". A fire destroyed part of the building of the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) in Brest on Friday.

"What will you tell your children when the oceans are dead?" »

To justify its measure, the Commission had argued that, of the 12% of marine protected areas in Community waters today, only 1% is "strictly protected". It had thus asked EU member countries to each establish their own roadmap by March 2024. The EU has already banned trawling below 800 meters since 2016, to help restore vulnerable ecosystems on the seabed. sailors.

When the plan was presented, environmental NGOs already considered the measure too far away, worrying about the slowness of the "urgent schedule that it would take". They protested that the EU would tolerate bottom trawling for another seven years in protected areas.

"What will you tell your children when the oceans are dead?" “, exclaimed again Sunday, in a tweet addressed to the French Secretary of State, the media defender of the environment Hugo Clément. "Your fight should be to avoid the collapse of biodiversity and stop the massacre of dolphins, by banning industrial fishing and financially supporting artisanal fishermen to reduce the pressure on marine resources," he said. insisted.