France has taken a significant step in marine conservation by temporarily banning commercial fishing in the Bay of Biscay, a move met with strong opposition from the fishing industry.
Prompted by concerns over the welfare of cetaceans, including whales, dolphins, and porpoises, a French court issued an emergency closure of the Bay of Biscay to fishing activities. The ban, effective from January 22nd to February 20th, applies to French vessels as well as those flagged under other European Union member states. It specifically targets vessels over 8 meters in length using pelagic trawls, demersal pair trawls, trammel and set-nets, and purse-seine gear. Violators will face legal consequences.
This decision has impacted over 500 vessels, with Lorient, the second-largest fishing port in France, particularly hard hit. Approximately 40% of the active fleet in Lorient operates in the Bay of Biscay and faces financial losses. Fishers and industry representatives, though claiming to adhere to sustainable fishing practices, are demanding compensation for their losses during the ban period.
Olivier Le Nézet, president of CNPMEM, a French fishing nonprofit, and SEM Lorient Keroman, which manages the Lorient port, estimated losses of around EUR 600,000 in revenue from the sale of 220 metric tons of fish.
Critics argue that the court's decision overlooks scientific evidence and industry efforts to mitigate harm to cetaceans. Despite intensified measures by fishermen to reduce accidental captures, the ban was still imposed.
To address industry concerns, France's Minister for Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, Christophe Béchu, assured compensation for affected fishing and processing companies.
However, industry leaders express dissatisfaction with the precedent set by the court's decision, viewing it as undermining the principles of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Javier Garat, President of Europêche, emphasizes the importance of adhering to EU regulations and calls for a comprehensive impact assessment and review of the decision to ensure compliance with the CFP.
The European Association of Fish Producer Organizations (EAPO) also voices opposition to the fishing ban, highlighting its impact on member states' fishing activities.
Source: Nicki Holmyard (February 7, 2024). France temporarily bans fishing in Bay of Biscay, resulting in widespread industry backlash. Seafood Source. https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/premium/supply-trade/french-government-temporarily-closes-bay-of-biscay-resulting-in-widespread-industry-backlash?utm_source=marketo&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_content=newsletter