BLOOM and ClientEarth tackle trawling in Mediterranean ‘protected’ marine areas

  • In the Mediterranean, France currently allows highly destructive fishing methods such as bottom trawling in its so-called ‘protected’ marine areas in the Mediterranean, despite a Europe-wide ban
  • BLOOM and ClientEarth are starting legal action to ensure that France finally complies with laws to protect the Mediterranean
  • A win would set a precedent for protected areas all over the EU


As France prepares to host the third United Nations Conference on the Oceans in Nice on the shores of the Mediterranean in June 2025, environmental NGOs BLOOM and ClientEarth are taking legal action against the government to bring it into compliance with EU law.

In 2006, the European Union adopted a regulation to ban fishing methods that are likely to damage marine habitats. It specifically bans bottom trawling, pelagic trawling, purse seining and dredging in all marine protected areas (MPAs) hosting certain vulnerable habitats such as seagrass meadows and coral reefs.

This regulation is of vital importance given that marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean are in a catastrophic state, with 95% of MPAs no more regulated than adjacent waters.

Contrary to EU law, France refuses to implement these bans and continues to authorise the most destructive practices through various decrees and derogations within its so-called ‘protected’ marine areas.

According to Nils Courcy, a legal expert at ClientEarth: “The simple fact that France is allowing trawlers to fish in protected areas that should be closed to trawling is a scandal. The European legal framework is not being respected. France’s interpretation of it is contrary to the letter and spirit of the law and tramples the major European environmental principles.”

According to Swann Bommier, Bloom’s head of advocacy: “France continues to flout the European regulatory framework with impunity, bowing to the demands of the industrial fishing lobbies. All the Mediterranean’s marine ecosystems are under threat as a result. At a time when the scientific community is sounding the alarm about the state of the oceans, and particularly the Mediterranean, it is urgent that Emmanuel Macron puts an end to the sham of ‘French-style’ protection and brings his actions in line with his rhetoric aimed at making France a ‘great ocean nation’.”

The NGOs are demanding that France revises three decrees authorising bottom trawling in certain French MPAs where it should be banned. The two NGOs will not hesitate to go to court should the administration fail to respond favourably to this request. Given that France is not the only nation allowing bottom trawling in protected areas, a lawsuit could have far-reaching consequences for MPAs across the EU.

Greece is setting an example in terms of safeguarding MPAs: based on scientific recommendations and the European framework, last April the Greek government announced a ban on bottom trawling in all its marine protected areas by 2030.

The French government, backed by the trawling lobby, is also not hesitating to put pressure on the European Commission to get the UK to abandon its ban on trawling in some of its MPAs, going so far as to form a coalition of eight European states to block the attempt by Great Britain to protect them.

Courcy said: “With a year to go before the United Nations Conference on the Oceans, which France will be hosting in Nice, it is incumbent on France to be consistent and credible on this issue.


Notes to editors :

The Mediterranean Regulation, adopted in 2006, bans bottom trawling, pelagic trawling, purse seining and dredging in all MPAs hosting certain vulnerable habitats. Those vulnerable habitats include seagrass meadows such as Posidonia meadows, coral reefs and maerl beds, mats of red algae that are true hotspots of biodiversity and serve as breeding grounds and nurseries for many marine species.

Image – Wikimedia Commons (Pablosievert)

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