The UK has issued 23 more fishng licences to French fishermen a day after the deadline set by the French Government French Fisheries Minister, Hervé Berville, has promised that no fishermen will be left stranded in the coming weeks despite the fuel crisis

French Fisheries Minister, Hervé Berville, has promised that no fishermen will be left stranded in the coming weeks despite the fuel crisis

The French Secretary of State for the Sea, Hervé Berville Engages with Fishermen in Southern Finistère to Continue Work on the Future of the Industry and Announce Support Measures Planned for the Coming Months

As he had promised, Hervé Berville, Secretary of State to the Prime Minister, responsible for the Sea, visited Guilvinec in Finistère to engage with fishermen over important issues facing the sector.

His visit aimed not only to provide an assessment of the consequences of the Individual Support Plan and the fuel crisis, but also to collaborate with fishermen in finding sustainable solutions for the future of the industry.

Guilvinec represents a microcosm of the fishing industry’s challenges, including the modernisation of port infrastructure, auction operations, decarbonisation of the fleet, energy costs (particularly for deep-sea vessels and trawlers), the impact of environmental standards on the industry, difficulties in recruiting crew members, Brexit, and evolving quotas.

 

1) Government Work Continues to Defend Food Sovereignty

The Approach

Since taking office, Hervé Berville has been meeting with fishermen. A year ago, he visited Guilvinec, as well as Les Sables d’Olonne and Sète, emphasising the government’s goal of defending the country’s food sovereignty.

Three priorities have been established with this goal:

  1. Strengthening the industry’s solidarity mechanisms through a strategic industry contract.
  2. Reducing the fishing sector’s dependence on fossil fuels.
  3. Adapting fishing to the consequences of climate change.

 

Objective of the Strategic Industry Contract

At the Agricultural Fair in February 2023, the state, in partnership with France Filière Pêche and the National Committee for Fisheries, signed a joint commitment to create a strategic industry contract. The aim is to develop structural solutions based on science and innovation, incorporating on-site feedback.

The strategic industry contract is built on three objectives:

  1. Affirming the desire to maintain a fishing industry that contributes to food sovereignty and job creation.
  2. Enhancing the competitiveness of the industry.
  3. Continuing to promote the commitments of an industry concerned with its environmental impact.

This contract aims to establish effective internal solidarity mechanisms within the industry. The state encourages local authorities to contribute to the strategic industry contract (regarding aspects such as organising the initial market launch or limiting port taxes for professionals to overcome the crisis). The state will consider all contribution proposals.

 

Creating the Fleet’s Energy Transition Plan with Private Stakeholders

To ensure the sustainability of the fishing sector, we must move beyond managing fishing by providing fuel subsidies and scrapping vessels. Instead, we need to offer a clear vision to the fishermen, particularly the younger generation.

The sector’s dependence on fossil fuels necessitates substantial commitments and investments. This is where the Secretary of State for the Sea presented the Fleet’s Energy Transition Plan during the Fishing and Seafood Products Conference in Nice on September 22.

This plan will also depend on future developments, such as revenue generated from the wind energy tax for fishing, expected to generate at least €450 million over the next ten years.

 

2) Urgent Tools Are Needed in the Coming Months

For Fishermen

As it has been for the past year, the state will stand by during the fuel crisis.

Since March 2022, the state has been providing diesel subsidies, with €75 million committed, four extensions, and three increases in the aid ceiling per company (€65,000, €105,000, and €300,000).

 

No fishermen will be left stranded in the weeks to come

Considering the urgency and persistently high diesel prices, which jeopardize the profitability of fishing businesses and the employment of their crews, the government has decided to extend the diesel subsidy by a minimum of €0.20/L until at least 04 December, providing an additional six weeks of support (meaning all fuel expenses reported to the state by that date will receive 20 cents per litre in support). This measure aims to avoid any disruption in support until the discussions between France and the European Commission reach a resolution.

Furthermore, we recently obtained from the European Commission an increase of the minimis ceiling for the upstream sector to €40,000, which should be operational as soon as possible.

 

For Fish Markets

The Brexit process has led to reduced volumes in the auction and tide halls of the main French ports involved. Although the Individual Support Plan had a limited scope, it also contributed to this decrease. As a result, we are in a transitional phase that affects the seafood sector, a vital part of the industry.

France has advocated for an increase in the minimis aid ceiling for downstream businesses, which were previously treated as upstream. We have succeeded in raising the ceiling from €30,000 euros to €200,000.

The seafood sector will benefit from a specific support plan provided by the state to cover part of the business losses resulting from Brexit over one year, with aid potentially reaching up to €15 million.

 

3) Preparing for 2024, the Government Aims to Mobilise All Stakeholders

For several weeks, the Secretary of State for the Sea has been conven ing various stakeholders, including local authorities, regions, and departments, the entire industry through the FranceAgriMer Specialized Council, and energy companies.

He has highlighted the various measures already available, such as the FEAMPA and the private CMA-CGM fund for decarbonizing the fishing fleet (20 million euros). The first round of funding will be accessible through BpiFrance at the beginning of the year.

France has also submitted a request for the temporary Ukraine support scheme to be extended until the end of 2024, along with an increase in the ceiling. The decision is expected in early November.

The government has obtained a voluntary commitment from TotalEnergies to initiate the greening of fishing fuel and implement a €0.13/L reduction at the pump starting from 01 January, 2024. We are working to ensure that this commitment is also adopted by other oil companies and distributors across the country. We need the entire industry to ensure that the entire territory is well covered.

The state will also examine each company individually to determine how to provide assistance. Alongside Bruno Le Maire, Hervé Berville will contact banks to encourage them to implement a moratorium on fishing vessel loans for the coming months for companies in need.

Similarly, the state will implement tax and social charge deferrals for eligible companies upon request, in cases of individualized need. The government remains committed to ensuring that structured fishing companies are recognised in Brussels.

At the beginning of 2024, the state will present its National Fishing Strategy, demonstrating its belief in the industry’s future and the collective commitment to provide the necessary resources.

Speaking at the meeting, Hervé Berville, Secretary of State for the Sea, said, “I believe in the future of fishing and its importance for France’s food sovereignty, the vitality of our coastlines, and the development of our local economy. Faced with the consequences of Brexit, rising fuel costs, and inflation, I have been fighting for over a year to ensure that no one is left in a deadlock. Together with the fishermen in Guilvinec, we have defined support measures and a collaborative approach to relieve their businesses’ cash flow and provide them with long-term prospects.”

Source: Press Release

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