To protect dolphins, the Council of State suspends exemptions from fishing closures

Seized in summary proceedings, the Council of State suspended on Friday December 22 the exemptions contained in a decree, which prohibits certain boats from fishing in the Bay of Biscay with certain nets for four weeks during the winter, deeming them “too important” to be able to reduce accidental captures of dolphins

To protect dolphins, the Council of State suspends exemptions from fishing closures

Seized in summary proceedings, the Council of State suspended on Friday December 22 the exemptions contained in a decree, which prohibits certain boats from fishing in the Bay of Biscay with certain nets for four weeks during the winter, deeming them “too important” to be able to reduce accidental captures of dolphins. This did not allow, according to a press release from the highest administrative court, to have “a chance of reducing the mortality of small cetaceans to a sustainable level from 2024”.

This is a new setback for the government, which is trying to protect the economic interests of fishermen to the great dismay of the associations France Nature Environnement (FNE), Sea Shepherd, Defense of Aquatic Environments (DMA) and League for the Protection of Birds (LPO), which have repeatedly referred the matter to the Council of State.

The court recalls that it had already ordered the government, in March, “to close, within six months, fishing zones in the Bay of Biscay for appropriate periods, in order to limit accidental deaths of dolphins and porpoises”. In response, the State Secretariat for the Sea issued a decree in October establishing a one-month fishing ban period in 2024, 2025 and 2026, “from January 22 to February 20 inclusive,” for all boats 8 meters long or more.

According to NGOs, the text includes “so many derogatory regimes” for the year 2024 that the “conditions of application are rendered inapplicable”. “The summary judge of the Council of State notes that the planned exemptions will concern a large number of vessels and therefore limit the effects of the fishing ban in 2024,” reports the court which has yet to rule on the merits of the case. 'affair.

In 2022, the Pelagis observatory recorded 1,380 strandings of small cetaceans between December and April on the Atlantic coast. The Bay of Biscay is a vast maritime area which extends in the west of France, from the northern coast of Spain to Brittany.