“The words of the European Commission cannot be heard”, according to the National Fisheries Committee

After its ban last January for the preservation of dolphins, fishing has resumed in the Bay of Biscay. Olivier Le Nézet, president of the national committee for sea fishing and marine farming, is franceinfo’s eco guest.


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Olivier Le Nézet, president of the national committee for sea fishing and marine farming.  (franceinfo)

Fishing has been authorized again since February 21 in the Bay of Biscay. It had been banned for a month from Brittany to the Pyrénées Atlantiques by decision of the Council of State contacted by environmental associations to spare dolphins and porpoises, unintentional victims of fishermen, but victims of accidental capture. Olivier Le Nézet is the president of the National Fisheries Committee. He comes from a family of fishermen, from Lorient. He is referred to as the strong man of fishing.

franceinfo: We’ll start by talking about the weather. She is not on the side of the sinners in the Bay of Biscay. Were they finally able to leave the port?

Olivier Le Nézet: No. As we speak, unfortunately, there is a storm on our Atlantic coasts and therefore it is an additional penalty which is added to that already of the one-month ban for certain types of gear risky fishing to avoid accidental captures.

As soon as the sky permits, what will they go fishing for?

They will fish for seasonal species such as sole and sea bass, species appreciated by our consumers who for a month have not been able to enjoy them in the same quantity that they regularly find in fish stores due to this closure. It is unfair for several reasons and above all, the profession was keen to find technological solutions and also knowledge to avoid these accidental captures of small cetaceans.

One more word about the stalls. Have prices increased during this month of break?

Yes, prices have increased, obviously and therefore the consumer also pays a heavy price for this court decision to prohibit certain types of ships and craft from being able to go to sea. These consequences are multiple because they have an impact , certainly, as you said for the consumer, to find these products, but it also increases the products from third countries which are less respectful of the environment, but also of the social aspect and therefore of the fishermen.

And the consequences for fishermen? The shortfall, can you assess it now?

Yes, the consequences are very important. The first figures that we can have, which are not completely stabilized since the closure has just ended. They are still to be consolidated. But what we can already estimate is that turnover has decreased by around 60% in fish auctions and fishing ports. But we also lost around 50% of volumes. So it’s colossal in terms of loss of turnover and volume.

The government has promised to quickly compensate all fishermen stuck at the dock. Where are we? Is there an emergency for certain professionals?

Yes, the emergency is total. We cannot have a closure for a month without it being taken into account and the court decision was to take into account the impact on fishermen. So, on February 24, it was two months to the day that the decision was made. The counter is still not open and we do not know the terms either. So the urgency is total and the anxiety is even more so. I would even say that there are companies which are in the process of not being able to continue their activity. But the impact was also on the downstream sector, marriage, fishmongers, but also transporters. So an entire sector has been affected and this impact will certainly amount to nine figures and several hundred million euros. So the State, here too, will have to take stock of the socio-economic impact of this closure for a month.

Paris has announced aid for between 80 and 85% of lost turnover. But has Brussels already said yes?

As of today, we are awaiting this decision. I told you, we don’t know the terms. We do not yet have the minister’s definitive response on the subject. And above all, there are already voices circulating, among others in Brussels, which highlight that this closure was a success. I regret, it is completely absurd on the part of the Commission. It is very clear that today, the comments, as we have heard today in certain media from the European Commission, are not acceptable and cannot be heard. The National Fisheries Committee will also take the necessary measures with the European Commission to be able to express itself to them and ask them for justification. The first figures we have on strandings of small cetaceans are increasing. So we need to study these figures. The autopsies also need to be really thorough so that we can determine the causes of these strandings along our coastlines.

However, you escaped three or four months of closure of the Bay of Biscay. This is what environmental defense associations were asking to save these dolphins on the French Atlantic coast. I remind you that 9,000 die in your waters every year. This is twice too much for the survival of cetaceans. But for you, is this unthinkable? It’s no today and it will be no tomorrow.

When we give a figure of 9,000 cetacean deaths, it is by extrapolation. The reality of strandings is lower than this figure given. Today, what we can see is that there are more of them while the ships are stationary. So, I hope that the action plan which was supported, carried out and validated by the European Commission to avoid these accidental captures through technology, but also through knowledge, can be implemented next year. It is not by putting the ships at the dock that we will find solutions. And so I will remind you of one last point on the cetacean section. It is very clear that today the fisherman does not wish to be compensated, but he wishes to be able to continue his profession and coexist with his own biodiversity.

Watch this interview on video:

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