First decisive step to protect tuna in the Indian Ocean despite fierce EU opposition

Press release – After three days of negotiations under severe tension and abnormal pressure, on Sunday 5 February 2023, coastal countries from Africa and the Indian Ocean managed to force the barrage of the EU and obtain a milestone resolution to start limiting the out-of-control technological escalade of industrial fishing against tuna and all marine life. 

A proposal, led by Indonesia alongside 10 other countries, which will implement a recurrent annual three-month prohibition on drifting fish aggregating devices (d-FADs) was successfully adopted by 16 votes out of 23. Although far from sufficient to restore tuna populations and regenerate depleted marine life by decades of intensive industrial fishing pressure, this measure is a crucial step towards a full ban on d-FADs. This urgent last-minute resort will hopefully help overfished populations of yellowfin and bigeye tuna rebuild to safe levels.

On Friday 3 February, the meeting held in Mombasa (Kenya) had started in the oddest possible way, with the then lead country on the FAD-temporary closure proposal — Kenya — deciding to withdraw from its own proposal during the opening session of the meeting, to the total bewilderment of its co-signatories. Kenya’s behavior caused so much outrage among co-sponsors of the proposal that they decided to table the text anyway, this time with Indonesia as lead.

Why did Kenya withdraw its proposal?

Kenya’s move was completely unexpected and took everyone by surprise, even Kenyan delegates. Officially, Kenya withdrew its proposal because it had not been vetted by the Ministry’s cabinet, but this inconsistent excuse for a text that had been prepared for months ahead of the meeting did not fly among negotiators. In fact, Kenya’s cabinet approval letter was seen by many delegates. The information soon broke among delegates that the European Commission had blackmailed Kenya at highest level over ‘blue economy’ aid money from the EU [1] to obtain Kenya’s withdrawal of the proposal on drifting FADs.

In our previous report [2], we had already highlighted the bullying of the EU (including on Kenya) to protect its French and Spanish industrial assets in the Indian Ocean. What happened this weekend in Mombasa shows that the EU has completely lost sight of its mandate to safeguard the environment and the health of marine life. “EU public authorities and industrial lobbies have merged into a unique body which, on top of damaging marine wildlife and ecosystems also harms developing economies in the Global South” said Frédéric Le Manach, BLOOM’s scientific director. “The posture of the EU is in blatant contradiction with the very philosophy of its development aid program. We wonder how negotiators can look at themselves in a mirror. They have no citizen mandate to act like they do.

Read our TunaGate investigation:

→ The Wild West of tuna fishing in Africa
→ The EU under the rule of tuna lobbies

When the stakes make public authorities lose sight of ethics…

Drifting FADs are highly criticized for their hyper-efficiency and utter unselectivity, but they are central to the business model of European fleets — chiefly French and Spanish — targeting tuna in the region.

Three figures summarize the extent of the issue on d-FADS:

  • EU tuna companies made 96% of their catches under d-FADs in 2018 in the Indian Ocean (where they are the single most important fishing actor)[3]; but
  • 97% of yellowfin tuna (an overfished species) caught under d-FADs by European companies in the Indian Ocean between 2015 and 2019 were juveniles[4];
  • 77% of the total bigeye tuna (another overfished species) juveniles caught in the Indian Ocean are from purse seine fisheries[5].

In other words, EU vessels depend on FADs, so any potential control on them is a direct threat to their harmful business model. Kenya’s initial proposal, with 11 other coastal states, requested to limit d-FADs to 150 units per fishing vessel, to phase out ‘supply vessels’ — i.e. vessels that do not catch fish but ‘manage’ huge FAD fleets for fishing vessels —, and to establish temporary three-month FAD closures annually [6].

Aware of the possible near-end of their unacceptable fishing model, the Spanish and French industrialists have been deploying maximum influence efforts to avoid the measures that they so dread. Tuna lobbies strategized long before the IOTC meeting with the French government to influence all processes threatening to impose environmental norms on them, such as the reform of the EU Control Regulation. This is also what explains the scandalous and possibly illegal appointment of the French public servant (Mrs Mattlet) who oversaw tuna fleets for the French government to the principal tuna lobbies ORTHONGEL and EUROPECHE. BLOOM and anti-corruption NGO ‘Anticor’ filed a complaint about this case to the French Public Prosecutor, who announced opening an inquiry in December 2022.

Mrs Mattlet was seen intensively lobbying the EU delegation all throughout the Mombasa meeting. She also openly fought the Indian proposal to ban FADs all year round[7].

BLOOM demands full disclosure of lobbyists’ exchanges with public authorities before the vote on the EU Control Regulation

Although temporarily working for the tuna lobby, Mrs Mattlet is actually still a French public servant that reports to public authorities. BLOOM therefore demands full disclosure of all exchanges that this hybrid public servant-private tuna lobbyist has had with the French government and all public authorities from the day she left her position at the Ministry of Fisheries.

Such complicity between public powers and private industry groups are acidic for democracy. These unhealthy bonds expose the biosphere to the unlimited greed of profits when the gravity of climate change and the disappearance of living species from the planet require lobby-proof resistance to any form of corruption, whether financial as seen with the QatarGate, or moral.

This is why we also demand immediate and total transparency on the exchanges between tuna lobbyists and all members of EU institutions.

The upcoming Parliament’s vote on the reform of the EU Control Regulation (March 2023) will show the extent to which tuna lobbies have reached into political groups in Brussels. BLOOM will follow this process closely.

The EU’s shameful influence not yet over

On the last day of the IOTC meeting in Mombasa, as the EU did not budge a centimeter and stuck to its position, Indonesia’s proposal was eventually put to a vote, which it won with 16 votes out of 23. For the first time, a much-needed FAD closure will therefore be implemented in the Indian Ocean. 

Unsurprisingly, this vote is not at all to the liking of the European Union, which has already threatened to object to the new resolution. If the EU were to do so within the next 120 days, the resolution would not apply to EU vessels. This begs for fundamental structural changes in the IOTC’s governance and in the EU’s ethical code of conduct, which is miles away from its mission to ‘reduce poverty’ and ‘mitigate climate change'[8].


[1] See ‘Blue economy’ project at:

[2] BLOOM (2023) Powerful, neo-colonial, pervasive… The EU under the rule of tuna lobbies. Available at:

[3] Source: IOTC data.


[5] Source: IOTC data.

[6] Proposal by Kenya:

[7] See latest example at: (in French).



  • The Washington Post (available via The Seattle Times), ‘Indian Ocean species caught between local, EU interests’, 23/02/02
  • AP News, ‘New Indian Ocean fishing rules in big win for coastal states’, 23/02/06
  • The Guardian, ‘Deal to curb harmful fishing devices a ‘huge win’ for yellowfin tuna stocks’, 23/02/08
  • Reporterre, ‘Dans les océans une technique de pêche ravage les populations de thons’, 23/02/03
  • Mongabay, ‘Critics allege EU’s ‘toxic collusion’ with fishing lobbies is damaging Indian Ocean tuna’, 23/02/07
  • Ouest France, ‘Bataille du thon dans l’océan Indien. L’Indonésie monte au filet et remporte une manche’, 23/02/07
  • The East African, ‘Kenya falls back on destructive fishing gear ban’, 23/02/11

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