10 May 2011
100% of French citizens support destructive fishing practices
10 May 2011
In collaboration with the Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme, Greenpeace and Deep Sea Conservation Coalition
Such are the findings of a groundbreaking study by the non-profit organization BLOOM on deep-sea fishing in France. Indeed, the two main deep-sea trawl fleets that fish at depths of up to 1500m in the North-East Atlantic have received several million Euros in public subsidies. This is notably the case of the fleet belonging to the French supermarket chain “Intermarché“, which is responsible for well over half of the deep-sea species catch in France, and which has perceived just under 10 million Euros in subsidies for its deep-sea trawlers. These figures do not take into account indirect state aid, such as the taxes on oil which are waived for fishing companies, without which the offshore trawlers that use 7000 litres of fuel per day would not be able to leave port and would be operating at a loss. Furthermore, BLOOM’s analysis of fishing company accounts reveals that they are in chronic deficit, in spite of aid from the European Union and the French government.
Consequently, 100% of French citizens contribute financially to a fishing practice that is neither ecologically nor economically sustainable.
These findings follow the conclusion by a scientific workshop, which convened 19 international experts to explore the conditions necessary for deep-sea fishing to be sustainable from an ecosystem perspective. The experts have found that deep-sea bottom fishing could never meet international objectives for sustainable and ecosystem-based fisheries management. The authors of the scientific report write that:
« It is well-established (…) that bottom trawl gear removes virtually all large non-target species, disturbs the upper layers of sediment (the doors themselves can leave furrows up to a meter deep in soft sediment environments) and generally results in a biomass and species-poor habitat. All trawls are non-selective collectors of organisms, but deep-sea trawls are also extremely heavy and are hauled across the bottom with considerable force and for long distances. (…) Deep-sea organisms are therefore no match for the weight and speed of bottom trawls. »
In 2010, ICES scientists reiterated that 100% of the European deep-sea catch lied ‘outside safe biological limits’. In fact, certain shark species affected by trawlers, such as the gulper shark Centrophorus granulosus, have seen an 80 to 95% population decline and are in critical danger of extinction in the North-East Atlantic.
BLOOM’s study thus reveals that the substantial aid allocated to deep-sea fishing fleets artificially preserves an activity that destroys marine resources and environments. Worse still, in the case of the Intermarché fleet, public subsidies have resulted in an improvement in the technological coefficients of vessels and in an increase, rather than a reduction, in the fishing capacity of deep-sea trawlers. Consequently, the public aid assigned to this segment of French fishing fleets violates the goals set by the European Union.
“The European Fisheries Fund (EFF) shall contribute to realising the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) objectives, which specifically consist of ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources ». “The Fund shall provide financial support (…) to reduce pressure on stocks by matching EU fleet capacity to available [resources] » and « to foster the protection of the environment”.
Claire Nouvian, president of BLOOM, asserts that: ‘Basically, French taxes have directly encouraged the devastation of extremely vulnerable species and ecosystems and helped maintain a fishing method which is as destructive – if not more so – than dynamite fishing. It is alarming to think that our earnings are used to jeopardize the common good of humanity and the future of our planet, simply to generate short-term profits for not even a handful of companies, including the retail giant Intermarché. One cannot help but regret that public money is not spent in a transparent fashion, upon causes that truly serve a project of solidarity within society…’
Information on European fishing subsidies can be found online at www.fishsubsidy.org, but no such information is available for State aid in France, which remains totally opaque.
In addition, Bloom conducted a survey on the consumption of fish in public primary schools in France and found that up to 90% of municipalities served deep-sea fish in school canteens, including species in danger of extinction.
 Scapêche and Euronor.
 Watling, L., Haedrich, R.L., Devine, J., Drazen, J., Dunn, M.R., Gianni, M., Baker, K., Cailliet, G., Figueiredo, I., Kyne, P.M., Menezes, G., Neat, F., Orlov, A., Duran, P., Perez, J.A., Ardron, J.A., Bezaury, J., Revenga, C., and Nouvian, C. 2011. Can ecosystem-based deep- sea fishing be sustained? Report of a workshop held 31 August-3 September 2010. Walpole, ME: University of Maine, Darling Marine Center. Darling Marine Center Special Publication 11-1. 84p.
 The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.