Conflict of interest in tuna fishing: the Parquet National Financier opened an inquiry

The Parquet national financier (or PNF, France’s financial crimes investigator) has decided to open an inquiry following our revelations on the collusion between French public powers and anti-environmental lobbies.

On 14 November, BLOOM revealed that one of the key members in the French administration in charge of tuna fishing management and control in Africa, Anne-France Mattlet, had been placed within the tuna lobby Orthongel for a period of one year. The lobby Orthongel then put Mrs Mattlet ‘at the disposal’ of the powerful European industrial fishing lobby Europeche, where she represents the interests of European tuna fishers in Brussels. Not only is this detachment immoral, but it also seems completely illegal.

However, the law is quite clear. It prohibits any person who has held a public office from going into the private sector to work on issues for which he or she was responsible before the expiration of a three-year period following the termination of his or her duties (article 432-13 of the Criminal Code). However, Ms. Mattlet was clearly working on the files for which she is now a lobbyist.

In particular, she was Chair of Compliance Committee of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission up to March 2022. She joined the tuna lobby a mere month later, in April 2022. It is within this Commission that the fishing quotas, the (non-existent) controls of the fleets and their monitoring are discussed. This is an absolutely vital management organization for European industrials, since the Indian Ocean is an important fishing zone for them.

Towards the end of impunity for industrial lobbies

On the basis of this information, BLOOM and ANTICOR have therefore reported the defection of Mrs Mattlet to the Parquet national financier, which has just opened an inquiry for illegal conflict of interests.

It’s an important first stage victory that means, we hope, the end of impunity for industrial lobbies and permanent collusion which exists between representatives of public power and industrial lobbies. But the battle is far from over, as even if an inquiry is opened, it is still essential that France distances itself from a tuna lobby that prefers to ask for a change in law rather than change its destructive practices.

Don’t forget, there is nothing trivial about the timing of this defection. It comes at the exact moment that France is under threat from a criminal procedure at the European Court of Justice for its total lack of control of its tuna fishing but also for having granted an exception allowing industrial tuna fishers to overstep the European law framework. The latter are in constant “involuntary violation” [sic] because of their much too effective and entirely non-selective fishing methods.

Confusion at the highest state level

Rather than forcing these industrials to transform their practices to find a semblance of virtue, France has made the demands of lobbies entirely their own by asking for a drastic reduction of the legal framework! The French State has therefore placed a civil servant specialized on the subject on a political mission within the industrial lobby with only one objective: bringing down the European norm.

If it succeeded, the French state would hit a double whammy: it would invalidate the infringement procedure opened against it and would also exonerate years of illegal fishing by French industrial fishers by making their illegal practices the new norm.

On 16 November, the Secretary of State for the Sea, Hervé Berville, got bogged down in the National Assembly by repeating Orthongel’s arguments and explaining that this lobby was just a non-profit organization. Mr. Berville confirmed that our political decision-makers have totally decompartmentalized the boundary between general interest and private interest. This confusion explains the disastrous state of the ocean.

Our political decision-makers have lost their bearings and the barrier between general interest and private interest has been completely knocked down. It is time for that to change. The inquiry by the Parquet national financier is a first crucial step.

→ Read our investigation file : The Wild West of Tuna fisheries in Africa


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