BLOOM and Corporate Europe Observatory file a complaint against tuna lobbies Orthongel and Europêche

Paris – Brussels, 16 November 2022

Today, marine conservation NGO BLOOM and Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) file a formal complaint to the EU Transparency Register against both the French tuna lobby Orthongel and EU-wide industrial fishing lobby Europêche.[1]

On 14 November 2022, BLOOM and French anti-corruption NGO Anticor revealed the collusion that exists between French public authorities and tuna lobbies, as the person in charge of distant water fleets for the French government became the director of the industrial lobby Europêche’s tuna group, without respecting the French legal waiting period of three years. BLOOM and CEO consider that both Orthongel and Europêche have breached the Register’s Code of Conduct by recruiting this person, as they could not ignore that, as per the French law, civil servants must have not worked on the topic at stake for the last three years. However, this person held a senior position directly linked to tuna fisheries until 2020 within the French administration, and was also an official French delegate at the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), and Chair of its Compliance Committee until March 2022.

This revolving door did not occur at a random moment nor without a specific reason, as crucial negotiations for tuna fleets from France and Spain are currently underway at the European level. Because they use a highly efficient and unselective fishing method,[2] these fleets catch massive amounts of unsorted species, including many juveniles of tuna. As a result, and according to the French lobby’s own words,[3] they are in constant violation of the legal framework, so they have no choice but to throw all their forces into the battle to change the law.

They have so far been successful at the French level, as the central fisheries administration has granted them in 2015 the right to trample the EU current legal framework. But the Commission discovered the trick, and eventually opened an infringement procedure against France.[4] France is now supporting Orthongel’s asks within the Council of the European Union, which has adopted them.

Tuna operators have been delegated by French public authorities the management and control of their own operations, but the absence of control has become a little too visible over the years, hence the infringement procedure. As a result, tuna lobbies know that control measures will have to be implemented by Member States such as France, sooner or later, but in case of controls, it would become apparent that they are systematically misreporting species and catching more that they have been declaring. The only way for them to keep their fraudulent business afloat is to obtain a legislative change that matches years of catch misreporting and overshooting of quotas.

This public-to-private illegal transfer has direct consequences on the current reform of the EU Control Regulation and requires a strong institutional response, including from the Register, which should not accept such practices. Orthongel and Europêche cannot be left off the hook. If they — along with the French government — were successful in their endeavor, they would in fact render null and void the infringement procedure opened by the European Commission against France, and would also legalize years of illegal activities.

We cannot accept that the private interests of a minute fraction of the European fishing fleet dictate European policies. The EU legal framework cannot be the adjustment variable of harmful practices conducted by a handful of industrial companies.


[1] Read the complaint.
[2] Purse seining.
[3] See e.g.

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