“Enough is enough!” says French small-scale fishers who are calling for action against what they believe is supertrawler impunity by the European Union.
French fishers are becoming frustrated by what they perceive as the EU’s alliance with the super-fish companies and the recent introduction of the new pelagic freezer-trawler Scombrus CC-919999 to the French and EU fishing fleet is deemed a step another step in the wrong direction for the preservation of artisanal fisheries and fish stocks. The fishermen’s group Pleine Mer are organising demonstrations in Concarneau planned for 25 September which coincides with the christening of the Scombrus.
“While small-scale fishing is struggling to recover from the Covid-19 crisis, the Scombrus, a giant trawler belonging to the France Pélagique company will be christened on 25 September in the port of Concarneau. Artisanal fishermen have therefore decided to protest against this scandal.
Although a French company, France Pélagique is a subsidiary of Cornelis Vrolijk, a giant and wealth Dutch fishing company, which owns many giant trawlers and monopolises the quotas of European countries through its subsidiaries. The Scombrus is the latest addition to the France Pélagique fleet: an 80-metre vessel, flying the French flag, but whose thousands of tonnes of herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and sardines will have absolutely no impact on the local economy: everything will be landed in IJmuiden in the Netherlands. A boat which, like two others in the France Pelagique fleet, the Sandettie and the Prins Bernhard, has a vast fishing capacity. Up to 200 tonnes of fish can be caught in one night, equivalent to the maximum volume that can be handled in Lorient’s auction, the largest French fish auction.
This is an economic and social scandal. The impact of this type of fishing on the ecosystem is enormous … and to be viable, let alone profitable, such a boat requires a huge concentration of quotas, eating the few remaining crumbs available for the artisanal sector. France Pélagique’s boats received much attention at the beginning of the confinement. Whilst smaller vessels were tied up at the quayside due to the crisis, giant trawlers were working in the middle of the Bay of Biscay. French fishermen are therefore up in arms against this model of fishing, which monopolises quotas and has a strong impact on the resource.
France Pélagique destroys jobs. The Label Normandy was sold by them and its crew made redundant to finance the Scombrus. This social scandal has left its mark on the company, with many crew and staff not agreeing with this authoritarian decision taken by the directors and shareholders.
The scandal also points to a conflict of interests amongst several well-known leaders in the world of fishing. Antoine Dhellemes, who created and directed France Pélagique, is not only the current vice-president of the National Fisheries Committee (CNPMEM) but is also president of the Producers’ Organisation (PO) FROM Nord, and president of the national association of POs. In order to address any conflicts of interest, Geoffrey Dhellemes, son of Antoine, has been appointed to run the company. Just like feudal barons, these fishing lords pass on power to each other whilst serfs work on their lands. They have invited the whole court of industrial fishing for the baptism of their baby: owners of Cornelis Vrolijk and their competitor Parelviet Van der Plaas, the Director of Fisheries, Minister of Fisheries, National Fisheries Committee and Producers’ Organisations … in short, all those controlling the fishing sector.
The association Plein Mer will reveal more information in the coming weeks and are calling on fishermen, associations, trade unions, and citizens to mobilize with them on September 25. The impunity of industrial fishing has gone on long enough!
To highlight bitter irony of the baptism of the Scombrus, Plein Mer is organising the “funeral of artisanal fishing and marine resources”. This will take the form of a festive and popular event open to all, to be organized in the same place: on 25 September at 11 am, in front of the France Pélagique office, in the Moros area.”
The new French pelagic trawler Scombrus CC-919999, built for France Pélagique (part of Cornelis Vrolijk), and is currently fishing off the northeast coast of England, having sailed from IJmuiden.
Built by Havyard Ship Technology AS at Leirvik in Norway the Scombrus was delivered to the Netherlands.
The 81.40 metre LOA, 7.50 metre beam Scombrus replaces the Sandettie, which was built in 1981, and will operate on small pelagic species such as herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting.