for fear of losing their license, French fishermen do not change their boats

Under a gray sky of heavy weather, the Sirocco approaches a granite quay at the end of the port of Saint-Malo. Its captain, Victor Massu, knows the importance of the weather for this old boat built in 1983. “We avoid going out in a storm.” Nothing to rejoice the crews, compared to those of more modern gillers. “This can engender a certain form of jealousy in the sailors who touch a little less compared to other boats., explains the captain. And then, you have to live with the times and change your vehicle. “

Except that changing boats or considering doing so is risky these days. It is even one of the sticking points in the discussions between France and the United Kingdom on fishing licenses, since Brexit: the fishermen who have changed their boat recently or who plan to do so, that is the problem. replacement ships, to which the British refuse licenses. The deadline given to the UK by the European Commission expires on Friday 10 December. The deadline was rejected by the British while France is still asking for a hundred licenses for its boats.

Changing your gillnet, it is a question for Victor Massu. While the sailors unload cases and cases of spider crabs caught in the Jersey-Guernsey sector, he finds his owner. Coming from a family of sailors from Saint-Malo, Loïc Escoffier took over the company created by his father in 2016 in 1982. Of the three boats he has, the Sirocco is the oldest. “It’s emblematic of Saint-Malo, exclaims Loïc. The boat is 16.80 m long for 6.50 m wide, it is 80 tons of oak. She is still a very good ship, but for sailors it is not the most relaxing. This boat also consumes a lot of diesel, it’s not great in terms of carbon footprint. “

The owner Loïc Escoffier fears losing his British fishing license if he changes boats, in Saint-Malo December 2021. (GREGOIRE LECALOT / RADIO FRANCE)

Loïc would like to replace his Sirocco by a more modern ship, like its Franck-Annie, moored just opposite. A more economical and safer motor catamaran with its two hulls. But if he changes boats, the owner loses his British fishing license on the grounds that a vessel which is more modern will fish more. Loïc does not understand. “It is the same number of sailors, the same number of kilometers of nets and the same customers, it is not at all to fish more “, argues the shipowner.

“If it is to give us the authorization but to tell us: in any case, you do not have the right to make your boat evolve, you do not have the right to resell them or to change them … Soon there will be no more boats in Jersey and Guernsey waters. “

Loïc Escoffier, shipowner

to franceinfo

Loïc therefore hopes for a solution, otherwise “We are going to be outlawed, we are going to set our goals anyway. For that, the French government will have to support us. If we are arrested tomorrow, they will have to come and get us.” The old Sirocco, he has not yet said his last word and with his crew, he sets out again at sea by the evening tide.

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