France has declared a temporary suspension of almost all commercial fishing activities in the Bay of Biscay, effective from Monday until 20 February, with the aim of protecting dolphins.
Marine experts from CIEM estimate that approximately 9,000 dolphins lose their lives annually in the bay due to accidental entanglements in fishing gear. The ban, the first of its kind since World War II, was mandated by the State Council last year in response to calls from environmentalists for enhanced marine mammal protection.
The affected area spans from Finistere in Brittany to the Spanish border, impacting boats longer than 8m (26.2ft), potentially affecting around 450 French vessels. Local fishermen express concern over financial losses, deeming the ban "absurd." However, the government has assured compensation, covering up to 75% of losses and ensuring swift payouts.
While some in the industry argue that the promised compensation is inadequate, others challenge the notion that marine mammals are endangered, denouncing "extremist NGOs." Environmentalists highlight the threat of entanglement for dolphins, emphasizing the immediate danger for smaller species and the prolonged suffering of larger animals.
Philippe Garcia, head of the marine conservation group Défense des Milieux Aquatiques, urges fishermen to comply with the ban, emphasizing that failure to do so could strengthen the case for environmentalists. The delicate balance between economic interests and marine conservation continues to be a point of contention in the Bay of Biscay.
Source: Megan Fisher (Jan 19, 2024). Bay of Biscay: France temporarily bans fishing to protect dolphins. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-68030476