07 March 2018
THE FRENCH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY UNANIMOUSLY VOTES IN FAVOR OF THE PROHIBITION OF ELECTRIC FISHING IN EUROPE
07 March 2018
A SCORE THAT IS LOUD AND CLEAR: 162 FOR, 0 AGAINST.
A NEW VICTORY FOR BLOOM’S CAMPAIGN
On March 6th 2018, the resolution from MPs Joachim Son-Forget and Jean-Pierre Pont (Presidential Majority) calling for a full ban on the use of an electric current to catch fish sparked an undisputed agreement in the French National Assembly. BLOOM followed the parliamentary debate with interest and welcomes the broad support of parliamentarians for our campaign, both at the European and French levels.
“BLOOM has clearly inspired the debate” rejoices its founder Claire Nouvian, who remembers that the subject had not emerged in the public space before the remarkable research done by her collaborator Laetitia Bisiaux. “MPs have all understood that this fishing practice was indefensible from a scientific, ecological, and social point of view and that the question now was would France develop a strategy for a victory at the European level? Or would it merely align itself on the side of public opinion and of fishermen without deploying its diplomatic genius to win.”
The unanimous vote of the MPs sends a strong message to the government. MP Paul Christophe remembered that the government, several times in the past, defended a status quo for electric fishing, allowing 5% of beam trawlers to equip themselves with electrodes to fish in the North Sea. Several MPs also pointed out the lies and collusion of the European Commission with industrials, such as Adrien Quatennens (left wing): “[Dutch industrials] act in defiance of the rules and of the general well-being, with the complicity of a European Commission that is decidedly much more attentive to the interests of the lobbies than to the general good.”
PROMISES OF THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT
The Minister of Agriculture and Food, Stéphane Travert, who was present in the Chamber, clarified the position of France and affirmed its support for a total ban: “Despite a very large experiment, perhaps even too large, it could not be demonstrated that the impact on the entire marine ecosystem was under control. It is time to end it. The credibility of our European fisheries policy advocated by the European Commission abroad is at stake, a policy whose principles and good practices are exported all over the world “.
BLOOM congratulates the government for its change of position but now waits for France’s plan of action to create a qualified majority of member states in solidarity with its position at Council.
MPs have rightly pointed out on several occasions that the trilogue negotiations (between the Commission, the Parliament and the Council of the EU) promised to be “tough” because of the fierce lobbying by the Dutch government fighting against the ban on electric fishing. The Dutch government has already appointed an ambassador, Cees Veerman, former Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Netherlands, to convince the other countries of the Union and the European authorities. Moreover, as the rapporteur MP Jean-Pierre Pont pointed out, “the Dutch have a certain number of means of pressure: fishing quotas, boat building, and Dutch capital in French fishing companies”. Indeed, several major French fishing companies are under Dutch capital such as Euronor in Boulogne-sur-Mer or Dhellemmes in Concarneau.
PLACING CONCRETE ACTIONS
Faced with these significant means of pressure, the French government must be immovable. As reminded by MP Daniel Fasquelle (Presidential Majority): “Minister, you have, in this difficult negotiation, all our support. You must not fail: it is a question of credibility for Europe in its desire to preserve a sustainable fishery and a question of survival for many of our fishermen, who rely on your ability to defend them and in your strength of conviction, as well as that of the Government”. However, as the Minister himself has pointed out, allies at the European level are for the moment few (and for good reason if France does not try convincing anyone!): “For the rest, we have an obligation of means. As I said at the end of my opening remarks, we will have to find allies, because we have so few at this time: there was, admittedly, a massive vote in the European Parliament, which you hailed on all the benches, but the position of a number of countries is far from the one that was expressed on that occasion. So we will have to gain these allies, one by one, and to do this, take advantage of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council. Seeing as how I have not missed anything, you can count on my will in this matter and at the same time on my combativity.”
Following these beautiful declarations of intent, BLOOM now waits for real actions at the European level as the trilogue soon begins. For the moment, France has indicated in the Council’s working group that it is clearly in favor of the total ban on electric fishing. However, it has not developed any strategies to form a qualified majority and to ensure a victory on this issue.
It is imperative to implement a political dynamic and concrete actions in order to definitively ban electric fishing at the European level. As was recalled by rapporteur MP Son-Forget: “France, which has the second largest maritime domain, has a duty to be exemplary in terms of fishing practices and must play a leading role in the establishment of ambitious European regulations for our environment. It must assume the leadership role that its geographical situation gives it.”
BLOOM will remain vigilant during the trilogue to ensure that the fight up until now, on the side of French and European artisanal fishermen, is followed by ambitious political action to ensure the survival of sustainable fisheries and marine ecosystems.
Several MPs highlighted the significant impacts on small scale fishers in the North of France as well as on marine ecosystems. “In Dunkirk, half of the local fleet disappeared in a decade. It is a social catastrophe, caused by the unfair competition and by the race to the industrialization of the Dutch fleet which comes to fish in our territorial waters” noted MP Adrien Quatennens (left wing). “The ban on electric fishing is an absolute necessity because this type of fishing represents a serious danger for our seabed, the ecosystem, the preservation of fisheries resources, and biodiversity”, proffered Pierre-Henri Dumont, MP from the Presidential Majority. “The European Union, through these multiple exemptions, does not respect the commitments it has set in terms of sustainability”, added Erwan Balanant, also an MP from the Presidential Majority.