11 April 2023
BLOOM files a complaint against the French State Secretary for the Sea before the Court of Justice of the French Republic
11 April 2023
Today, BLOOM is filing a complaint with the Court of Justice of the French Republic(1) against the French Secretary of State for the Sea, Mr. Hervé Berville, for a series of lies that have ignited spirits and provoked the warrant of offenses including the burning down by “angry fishers” of the French Biodiversity Offices in Brittany, in charge of Marine Protected Areas. Mr. Hervé Berville’s speeches called into question the principles of dignity, probity and integrity to which members of the French government are bound. The Secretary of State’s misleading remarks have damaged the possibility of an informed and peaceful democratic debate about the ecological and fair transition the fishing sector must operate in the face of the climate threat and the collapse of biodiversity.
For three weeks in March, the French Secretary of State for the Sea, Hervé Berville, has been snowballing a trail of lies in the Senate, the French National Assembly, the Council of the European Union and in the media, claiming that the ‘Ocean Action Plan’ published by the European Commission on 21 February 2023 would “condemn French small-scale fishing and lead to its disappearance. Not in 10 years, but tomorrow.” This non-binding Ocean “Action Plan” only served as a reminder to EU Member States of existing European law and of the need to truly protect marine ecosystems and the climate by banning, in particular, high-impact fishing methods such as bottom trawling in so-called Marine ‘Protected’ Areas (which are by no means protected in France). However, according to the French Secretary of State, the action plan posed an existential and imminent threat to the entire fishing sector.
The Secretary of State should have taken responsibility in the face of the collapse of marine biodiversity, the destruction of marine habitats and the social depletion in the fishing sector, now under a drip-feed of fuel subsidies, in order to orchestrate a peaceful dialogue aimed at protecting the marine environment and the climate while ensuring the socio-environmental resilience of fishing activities. In short, as a representative of public authority, Mr. Berville should have already prepared and should start preparing the ground for the sector’s socio-environmental transition by 2030.
Instead of taking such a stance, French Secretary of State Berville has fabricated an imaginary danger for the entire sector in order to satisfy a trawl and industrial lobby opposed to any questioning of its practices and to the very principle of protecting a part of the ocean, that it relentlessly exploits in 99% of the waters in mainland France (since truly protected marine areas cover less than 0.1% of French waters).
The irresponsible remarks made by the Secretary of State in the press and within public and European institutions have ignited a fire and bred disorder with serious consequences, including the burning, during the night of 30-31 March, of the offices of the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB; French: Office français de la biodiversité) in Brest, responsible for the management of the Marine Protected Areas frowned upon by Mr. Berville. Fortunately, no OFB agent was present on the premises at the time of the tragedy, but the material and immaterial damage is immense. The longer-term effects are catastrophic, at a time when the fishing sector must begin its transition, as scientific recommendations and European law have been vilified and named scapegoats, as the interests of artisanal fishers, the primary beneficiaries of Marine Protected Areas that are exclusively reserved for low-impact fishing have been ignored, and as environmental NGOs have been directly threatened.(2)
French laws require members of the Government to act responsibly, in favor of the general interest and democratic debate: Article 23 of the law of 29 July 1881 on the freedom of the press sanctions speeches made in public places or meetings that provoke a third party to commit crimes or offenses, while Article 1 of the law of 11 October 2013 on the transparency of public life requires members of the Government to exercise their functions with dignity, probity, integrity and impartiality.
In these respects, French Secretary of State for the Sea, Hervé Berville, has seriously failed in his core duty.
BLOOM is now initiating legal proceedings against Mr. Hervé Berville so that he may answer for his inflammatory remarks before the Court. It is inconceivable that a member of the Government can freely damage the public debate so as to mask his inaction with regards to climate change, the collapse of living resources and the vulnerability of coastal and artisanal fishers, who see the ocean being emptied under the onslaught of an industrial fishing fleet engaged in a deadly and climate-wrecking race to technological advancement.
The ministerial function occupied by Hervé Berville morally obliges him to be responsible for the French Republican ideal and democratic balance, rather than rendering him the tradesman of disorder. With this legal procedure, BLOOM intends to force the Secretary of State to answer for his actions and to put an end to his irresponsible and harmful behavior so that the Government finally acts and behaves in favor of the general interest.
(1) The « Cour de Justice de la République » is a special French court established to try cases of ministerial or governmental misconduct.
(2) This was the case for activists and the president of Sea Shepherd France, Ms. Essemlali.
FIND OUT MORE
- See BLOOM’s press release about Mr. Berville’s manipulation.
- And our deciphering of his successive lies.
- See the ‘Marine Protected Areas’ page on the BLOOM website.
- Read Seas at Risk and Oceana’s summary report on the problems with bottom trawling and possible alternatives.