French fishers are set for further protests against Dutch-owned flyshooters which they claim are damaging their livelihoods

French fishers are set for further protests against Dutch-owned flyshooters which they claim are damaging their livelihoods

Tensions are rising again in the north of France as local fishers step up their efforts to force flyshooters out of their waters in the English Channel.

The fishermen of Hauts-de-France and Normandy decided to block the landings of Dutch vessels at Boulogne-sur-Mer on Thursday evening, 20 May, in protest against their industrial seiners and promise a further two weeks of action, according to their representatives.

Fifteen to twenty fishermen positioned themselves to prevent two 34m French-registered Dutch-owned flyshooters from unloading their catch in an action carried out to denounce this fishing method.

In a strongly worded statement signed by a group of fishermen from across northern France, the Dutch operators are accused of trucking their catches direct from the main landing port of Boulogne-sur-Mer back to the Netherlands.

We demand that systematic controls on their landings be put in place to protect us from fraud that is detrimental to the resource and to our activities. We have asked the Minister of the Sea for an appointment,” CRPMEM Hauts-de-France president Olivier Leprêtre.

We denounce the productivist Dutch fishing model and we ask that the catches be subject to the same controls imposed on us and above all that they be put on sale at the Boulogne-sur-Mer auction,” demanded Leprêtre.

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“We have the same problems as the Boulonnais, we have to fight against Dutch gigantism,” Jean-Baptiste Houchard, trawler boss in Port-en-Bessin told La Voix du Nord.

The Dutch fishing effort is mind-boggling. What they do in a day, we need a week,” assures Alexandre Fournier, future boss of the Notre Dame de Boulogne trawler. “When we are in their wake, we have a quiet week …

Four weeks ago, VisNed, the Dutch fishing industry magazine, reported that the had been a Gentleman’s Agreement reached between coastal states on the English Channel and the Dutch flyshooters.

The deal was reported to have been agreed between four countries, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the UK and was supposedly to come into effect on Monday 19 April 2021, with the agreement being revisited in September to discuss additional measures.

French fishers denied the agreement and on 12 May, it was revealed that the French had reneged on the agreement much to the frustration of the Dutch.

In response to the French actionVisNed wrote:

“Last week, the French came back to this because after internal consultation the agreements were considered insufficient. In short, consultation should be continued.

On Thursday, April 15, administrators of four different groups of involved fishermen reached agreement on a number of agreements:

  • Number of permits; France 28, Belgium 6, Netherlands 24, UK 17, where a decision by the UK government has yet to be taken,
  • Maximum rope length: 3,200 meters + 15% control margin,
  • Maximum rope weight: 2 kg + 5% control margin, rope thickness: 50 mm
  • Number of days at sea in VIId; per block of 2 weeks a maximum of 8 days at sea (starting date: April 19, 2021)
  • Use minimum mesh size: 80 mm
  • NL and BE flyshooters remain outside the 9-mile limit of VIId and outside the 12-mile zone in Normandy
  • Evaluation measures; at least once every 6 months.

The above measures were seen as a compromise and so was the area to which they were to apply; VIId (Eastern English Channel) only. Earlier talks of extending the measures to neighbouring areas had been discussed, but positions were not aligned on this.

Internal deliberation among the French has now resulted in at least the days-at-sea regulation also having to apply to area VIIe. Apparently the French who sat at the table on April 15, were there with insufficient mandate. 

This, despite the fact that previously there were Flyshooters who had indicated that in addition to VIId, the involvement of VIIe and IVc in the agreements should also be considered. Only in this way can control measures be established that have a real effect.

This week we also updated the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality about the developments. These consultations are also related to pressure from the French government. Reference is also made to restrictions in the context of the North Sea Management Plan with a link to VIId with regard to cod management. At the last minute, the French managed to get a provision in this regard whereby the capacity is capped at a level of almost 15 years ago.

How we turn it or turn it; the Dutch activities (regardless of the flag) are monitored critically. An agreement will have to be reached to create peace and tolerance.

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French fishers protest blocks landings of Dutch-owned flyshooters

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