28 July 2014
Defending the indefensible: how politicians and their lobbyists are doing it
28 July 2014
The French trawling lobby, BLUE FISH, teamed with the lobbying firm G Plus Europe, a subsidiary of Omnicom Group, to defend trawling interests and ensure that the most destructive and the least selective, least provider of jobs, least economically viable fishing methods such as deep-sea bottom trawling will not be called into question by the legislation.
This is the story of the meticulous organization of the defense of the indefensible.
When the Comité des pêches français (French fisheries Committee), which always tends to represent the interests of the industrial fishing sector at the expense of the artisanal one, and BLUE FISH embarked on their crusade against the proposal of the European Commission to ban deep-sea bottom trawling, they chose G Plus Europe to do the “dirty work” on a file that had no rational basis: deep-sea bottom trawling is objected by economic data, science, public opinion and the main food retailers.
Deep-sea bottom trawling is costly to society, destroys species and ecosystems. It is a kind of subsidized and high-energy underwater bulldozer, producing a flayed low-end fish which must be cut into fillets because it is too damaged to be presented as such to consumers.
Read scientific and economic arguments against deep-sea bottom trawling and the latest data finally revealed by the Ifremer (in French), demonstrating that all BLOOM estimates were accurate.
So how to go about defending the indefensible?
There are plenty of unethical solutions which have been implemented in this file:
1 Distorting the facts
2 Hiding embarrassing data
3 Emotional blackmail on employment (on the basis of false data produced by lobbying firms)
4 Ignoring or contradicting the scientific data
5 Making “dirty” politics: lying, delaying, manipulating and using strategies with lobbying firms to put the file in peril.
In addition, the French lobbies of industrial fishing can count on the support of public authorities, the fierce support of the Fisheries Minister Frederic Cuvillier, some elected representatives of Brittany (including Isabelle Thomas PS –Socialist- and Alain Cadec UMP –right wing-, united together to defend the interests of the fishing industry within the European Parliament) and State science (largely funded by the Fisheries Ministry therefore under its control).
Chronology of the key events
JANUARY 21, 2013: CANCELLATION OF THE FIRST EXCHANGE OF VIEWS PLANNED IN THE FISHERIES COMMITTEE ON THE DEEP-SEA FISHING REGULATION
The legislative proposal from the European Commission came out in July 19, 2012 (nine months after the French blocked it inside the Commission – in French). The tactic of the cumulative delays was chosen by the lobbies and their MEPs to derail the deep-sea fishing regulation: the rapporteur had planned to present on March 20 and 21, 2013 his report to be voted on April 23 but it was finally voted on November 4, 2013. This delay of six month will be fatal to complete the “trialogue” because of the reelection of the MEPs in May 2014.
FEBRUARY 19, 2013: “DEEP-SEA FISHING” HEARING AT THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
While the list of speakers was decided between the coordinators of the political groups, no deep-sea fishing industrial was invited to testify, which surprised some MEPs and NGOs. The tactic was rapidly revealed. Almost immediately after the hearing, the deep-sea fishing industries expressed their dissatisfaction about not being invited and demanded another hearing. This generated a delay of three months.
MARCH 4, 2013: LETTER OF THE FISHING INDUSTRY FOR A SECOND PUBLIC HEARING
The deep-sea fishing industry sent a letter to the president of the Fisheries Committee and demanded a second hearing on the pretext that the first one was biased (scientists supporting deep-sea bottom trawling were yet present to advocate their interests but their arguments could not face the contradiction of academic researchers). Speakers at the first hearing were yet chosen with the unanimous agreement of the political coordinators.
The rapporteur fell into a crass political move forcing him to accept a delay of three months of his agenda and to get dangerously closer to the inactive period of summer that will impose an additional delay of three months.
The second hearing was held on June 17 for “agenda reasons”, hence the critical role of the secretariat of the Fisheries Committee: the French person who works there is a discreet but instrumental tool to compromise the progress of this regulation. He serves with so little discretion the industrial fishing interests that this file was withdrawn from him for a while.
MARCH 8, 2013: LAUNCH OF BLUE FISH, OFFICIAL LOBBYING FIRM OF THE FISHING INDUSTRY FROM LORIENT, AT THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Supported by the Mayor of Lorient (Norbert Metairie)  and sponsored by MEP Isabelle Thomas, the association “to promote sustainable and responsible fishing” was born at the European Parliament on March 8, 2013 (online video). It brings together the most prominent advocates of industrial fishing Olivier Le Nézet, Norbert Metairie, the socialist MEP Isabelle Thomas, Nicolas Teisseire, the lobbyist from Lorient paid by public funds… in the same way that UIPP (Union of industries for the “protection” of plants) brought together firms of the synthetic chemistry sector on the pretext of the “protection” of nature.
Who funds and organizes the lobbying of the fishing industry? Apparently, the city of Lorient, whose agency of city planning Audélor welcomes BLUE FISH in its premises . It is also Audélor who conducted the survey on NGOs (November 2012 – in French), which turned into a conspiracy theory against NGOs (the theory of “Blue Charity Business” showing that the French ecologist NGOs swim in the money of the American oil!). The Mayor of Lorient never answered to NGOs’ letters (in French) asking for some explanations about these surveys and their source of funding.
BLUE FISH is simply a lobbying organization largely financed by public funds. In France, the state and municipalities put obstacles to NGOs and citizens, and finance the lobbying industry. Spot the mistake!
This pure deception is denounced by “Le Canard Enchaîné” on December 4, 2013 in an article entitled “Intermarché touche le fond” – in French (Intermarché hits bottom).
By sponsoring an association of industrial lobbying and systematically defending the interests of the fishing industry of Brittany (regardless of artisanal fisheries), MEP Isabelle Thomas is placed in a situation of conflict of interests that breaks the code of conduct for MEPs.
MARCH 13, 2013: THE SUPPORT OF PRO-LOBBY MEPs TO A SECOND HEARING
A letter signed by the most supportive members of the fishing industry (Struan Stevenson, Carmen Fraga, Diane Dodds, Maria Patrao Neves, Isabelle Thomas, Jaroslaw Walesa, Alain Cadec, Marek Gróbarczyk and Pat the Cope Gallagher) is addressed to the President of the Fisheries Committee and reiterates the demand of the fishing industry to have a second hearing on deep-sea fishing while all were consulted on the selection of speakers for the first one.
MARCH 21, 2013: THE FISHERIES COMMITTEE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS THE AGENDA OF THE DEEP-SEA FISHING REGULATION
The next day, the coordinators of the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament, responsible for drafting the report to be voted in plenary session, take the decision in closed session to push away the agenda of the regulation in order to scuttle its progress and drown it in the European legislative machinery.
Since the fishing industry has no argument to advocate for the preservetion of deep-sea bottom trawling, it relies on “G Plus Europe” which controls the procedures and can win by playing nastily.
APRIL 10, 2013: OFFICIAL REQUEST FROM THE FISHERIES COMMITTEE OF A SECOND IMPACT STUDY
The president of the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament, Gabriel Mato Adrover, signs a letter to the Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, asking her to conduct a second impact study and incorporate specific results of the research project “DEEPFISHMAN” conducted by Pascal Lorance from IFREMER.
APRIL 23, 2013: BLUE FISH PRESS CONFERENCE AT THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PROMOTED BY THE SECRETARIAT OF THE FISHERIES COMMITTEE
The press conference of the lobbying association of Lorient Blue Fish in the European Parliament is promoted by the secretariat of the Fisheries Committee. The only goal: to make the MEPs aware of the existence of this organization. The promotion of the press conference with the media is provided by the advertising and marketing agency of the professionals of the sea “seatosea.fr”, client of the Lorient agglomeration and the Fisheries Committee of Brittany.
April 26, 2013: BLUE FISH FINANCES A PWC STUDY INVALIDATED BY ITS METHODOLOGY
Ouest France indicates that the first hobbyhorse of BLUE FISH is deep-sea fishing. BLUE FISH commissioned a study (€ 33,000) to the firms PWC and Fish Pass. It was this study whose incomprehensible and flawed methodology was criticized by BLOOM. PWC answered on March 5 (in French), 2013 and told us the methodology was “confidential”.
The overestimation of jobs related to deep-sea fishing is rooted in this cryptic PwC study. BlueFish has no real existence, its members, even the elected ones, are nowhere mentioned, public funds received in order to make lobbying for Lorient and Intermarché are opaque. The only link that we can find is the one of the official journal mentioning that BLUE FISH Association – founded in reality later (May 16, 2013) than its official launch by Isabelle Thomas in the European Parliament (March 8, 2013) – headquarters in Audélor’s address (which is itself financed 99% or more by public funds, see its activity reports).
JUNE 17, 2013: SECOND HEARING AT THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ON DEEP-SEA FISHING AND THE PRESS CONFERENCE OF ISABELLE THOMAS WITH THE REGION OF BRITTANY
Following the political manœuvres of Struan Stevenson, Isabelle Thomas and others, manufacturers are now in the place of honor of the second hearing with these speakers:
- Mr Ivan Lopez, President, Asociación de Pesca Armadores of Buques Bacalao – Agarba
- Mr Barrie Deas, Chief Executive, National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations – NFFO
- Mike Park, CEO of the Scottish White Fish Producers
- Jean-Pierre Le Visage, Operating Director, Scapêche
September 5, 2013: THIRD HEARING ON DEEP-SEA FISHING DEEP ORGANIZED BY ISABELLE THOMAS AND STRUAN STEVENSON
Isabelle Thomas and Struan Stevenson invited for a private hearing at the European Parliament the fishing industry and scientists working with the fishing industry in public research entities (under the supervision of fisheries administrations, most often).
SEPTEMBER 17, 2013: THE “7 PRINCIPLES” OF THE INDUSTRY!
On behalf of “The Alliance of Deep-Sea Fishing professionals” (the alliance of professionals brought together by the lobbying firm G Plus Europe), the presidents of the French Committee of fisheries (Gerard Romiti, CNPMEM) and Europeche (Javier Garat) sign a letter supported by 15 associations of fishermen announcing in an excess of hypocrisy they are “worrying about the lack of progress” of the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament concerning the deep-sea fishing regulation! They take the opportunity to dictate their “seven principles” that the regulation should follow: what follows is a long list describing with subparts the amendments that would be “unacceptable” for the industry. In fact, the amendments concocted by the professionals and advocated by G Plus Europe are endorsed as such by Struan Stevenson, Isabelle Thomas, etc.
MEANWHILE, THE PARLAMENT IS GETTING STUCK
Meanwhile, the deep-sea file is going to break all records of stagnation in the European Parliament: 15 months after the European Commission released its legislative proposal, the deep-sea regulation has still not crossed the stage of the tiny Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament and its 25 members. MEPS Isabelle Thomas, Alain Cadec, Struan Stevenson, Gabriel Mato Adrover, Carmen Fraga, Maria do Céu Patrao Neves and others form an aliance the European Parliament to delay the file and make it very close to the fateful moment of the European elections (May 2014).
Even the extremely complex issue of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy went faster than the deep-sea fishing regulation. The regulation on shark finning, which resulted in a fierce battle with Portugal and Spain and all kinds of tactics by the Portuguese rapporteur Mrs Patrao Neves, was treated in 19 months from the release of the legislative proposal of the European Commission (November 2011) to the adoption by the Council of the new regulation (June 6, 2013).
OCTOBER 17, 2013: NEW POSTPONEMENT OF THE VOTE OF THE REGULATION IN THE FISHERIES COMMITTEE…
NOVEMBER 4, 2013: DEEP-SEA FISHING REGULATION FINALLY VOTED IN THE FISHERIES COMMITTEE!
The regulation on deep-sea fishing, finally voted in the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament, is a third-rate agreement: the vote is not a surprise since the industrial fishing lobbies had obtained the support of a majority of MEPs (13 out of 25). The result is a text that does not respond adequately to the threats raised by industrial vessels to marine ecosystems of the deep-sea, particularly vulnerable to the impacts of fishing activities. The text to be voted in plenary session of the Parliament no longer contains the ban on deep-sea bottom trawling but a overcomplicated amendment of compromise that maintains this fishing method and puts off the reevaluation of its impacts. The industry welcomes this success obtained thanks to the procedural tactics of G Plus Europe.
 Le Marin, March 14, 2013
 Audélor and Blue Fish have the same address and the same phone number: 12 avenue de la Ferriere 56324 Lorient Cedex. Phone number : 02 97 88 22 44