French fishermen's organisation CNPMEM has condemned attrempts to demonize their profession fishing ban bay biscay

The Council of State has ordered the French government to ban fishing in Bay of Biscay to protect dolphins after an increase mortality

The Council of State, the highest court in France, has ordered the government to ban fishing in parts of the Atlantic to protect dolphins after an increase in the number of the mammals being washed-up dead.

The decision by the Council of State comes days after an oceanographic institute reported that at least 910 dolphins had washed up on France’s Atlantic coast since the start of the winter.

Over a single week, more than 400 of the marine mammals were found stranded along the coast, an “unprecedented” number, the Pelagis oceanographic observatory based in the western city of La Rochelle said in a report on Friday. 

Several environmental NGOs, including Sea Shepherd, had filed a legal complaint against the government over the dolphin and porpoise deaths.


French Government Reaction

Reacting to the State Council, the French Secrétariat D’Etat Chargé de la Mer issued a statement yesterday, Tuesday 22 March 2023 which said that in order to reduce the accidental catches of small cetaceans in the Bay of Biscay, the State launched in the summer of 2022 an emergency plan of 17 million euros built in conjunction with NGOs, fishing professionals and scientists.

It said a dedicated technical group bringing together the same actors has been set up to monitor its deployment, as well as an information bulletin produced every fortnight. As provided for in this plan, half of the most active net-fishing vessels in the Bay of Biscay (213 vessels) must be equipped in 2023 with one of the three scaring devices. In addition to these devices, a hundred of these ships will also have to be equipped with cameras to objectify the performance of these devices.

This reinforced plan will make it possible to dimension, with knowledge, in a sustainable manner, the management measures to significantly reduce accidental captures and thus guarantee the good ecological state of the populations of marine mammals in the Bay of Biscay from 2024.

Having judged that the results would not be quantifiable quickly enough, the Council of State requests that additional measures be taken within six-months.

The Ministere de la Mer spokesperson said, “The judgment having been rendered, it is now necessary to build the reinforced system in consultation with professionals and scientists for implementation next winter, with mortality concentrating on the winter season. It will be a question of arriving at solutions which will make it possible to continue the cohabitation between the cetaceans, very mobile in the zone, and the French fishing activities, essentially artisanal, in the Bay of Biscay. The French authorities will ensure that these solutions are part of a regional cooperation framework.

These measures, which will be developed with professionals, must take into account the commitment of fishermen in the deployment of the action plan, which is not in question. Innovative devices for detecting the presence of cetaceans in the Bay of Biscay (overflights, satellite detections, real-time reporting of groups of cetaceans) could supplement the tools for managing the risk of accidental captures. To this end, it is appropriate to highlight the investment of the fishing sector in recent months to demonstrate its desire to preserve the marine environment and biodiversity.”


French fishermen’s Reaction

The National Fisheries Committee (CNPMEM) said the decision of the Council of State was astonishing and incomprehensible.

The CNPMEM said it wonders about the consistency of the established proposals and considers that this results in more questions than answers to the problem posed, namely the protection of small cetaceans in the Bay of Biscay.

The Council of State finally goes to the simplest, citing urgency and prohibits the activity of hundreds of fishing companies to limit interactions with dolphins by setting a deadline of 6 months for taking these spatial closure measures. – temporal. The search for a balance between food fishing and the preservation of protected species should however be a priority objective.

Olivier Le Nezet, President of the CNPMEM declares: “This decision is incomprehensible and will have irreversible effects on French fishing. It is all the more violent as the action plan proposed by the State was to make it possible to find alternatives to reconcile the protection of dolphins and the pursuit of fishing activities.

“To all the professionals I represent, I would like to send the following message: there is no question of stopping there. I asked to meet urgently with the Minister in order to concretely analyse the impact of this decision in order to consider all the possible options
available to us”

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