Ifremer withdraws its scientific support to the deep-sea fishing lobbies

With just 15 days to go until the European Parliament votes in plenary on the deep-sea trawling ban, the industrial deep-sea fishing lobbies and their political allies have suffered a major blow: Ifremer (the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea) has withdrawn what little scientific support it offered. The lobbies were using this scarce support to justify their fishing activities (which are, however, unjustifiable in ecological, economical and employment terms).

 

Yesterday evening, during the round table on deep-sea fishing held at the French National Assembly by the Commissions for European Affairs, Economic Affairs, and Sustainable Development, the delegate director general of Ifremer refuted the supposed “sustainability” of deep-sea trawl fishing, thus ending a scientific sham which could no longer go unnoticed. Patrick Vincent stated that the article being used as a scientific alibi by the lobbies and officials did not represent Ifremer’s “position”. He also asserted that for three stocks, we are “led to believe” that sustainability might be achieved “at some unknown time in the future”, but that for all others, we have “insufficient” knowledge to reach similar conclusions. Philippe Cury of the IRD (French Institute for Development Research) emphasized that 21 of 54 deep-sea stocks, including endangered species, were exhausted, and that we have no scientific data for 26 others!

 

32 international scientific publications proving that deep-sea trawl fisheries are unsustainable and 70 describing the destructiveness of deep-sea trawling (see http://www.bloomassociation.org/il-nexiste-pas-de-controverse-sur-la-peche-profonde-verifiez-vos-sources/, in French) radically contradict the statements of this Ifremer online article, which has no status, is unsigned, and has already been denounced in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature.

 

Ifremer’s position deprives the industrial lobbies and their political allies (Isabelle Thomas [French Socialist Party] and Alain Cadec [UMP / Union for a Popular Movement] in the European Parliament, Gwendal Rouillard [French Socialist Party] in the French National Assembly, and Frédéric Cuvillier [French Socialist Party] at the Ministry of Fisheries) of the only scientific justification that formerly allowed them to attempt a political feat: asserting the supposed “sustainability” of deep-sea trawl fishing, casting doubt on all other scientific publications, and delaying the decision regarding a ban on this fishing method.

 

Now, the officials and lobbies only have one joker left to play: employment. They refuse to discuss the possibility of converting deep-sea trawlers to longline fishing, as suggested by the European Commission, even though this fishing method creates six times more jobs than trawling, according to a recent estimate by the New Economics Foundation[1] (based on figures from the European Commission). Moreover, the only scenario that they mention is that of fishing boats halting their activities entirely. They brandish estimates for direct and indirect jobs which are 15 times higher in 2013 than they were in 2010! Thus, during the Grenelle de la Mer Seas Summit, industrialists gave the figure of 200 jobs, whereas today, in a desperate scrabble for arguments, they do not hesitate to speak of 3000 jobs. This would mean that the deep-sea species catch in France, which accounts for only 2.3% of all French catch,[2] creates 17% of jobs in the fishing sector.

 

The only figure that is anything like an estimate is that of a total of 600 jobs, produced by the firm PwC, at the request of the Lorient local authorities. Yet this study constantly fails to separate deep-sea fishing from fishing off the coasts as a whole, and uses extremely high multipliers to estimate on-land jobs, based on an onboard jobs figure not used by fisheries economists” states Claire Nouvian, founder of BLOOM. When BLOOM requested an explanation of the calculation method used, PwC answered that this was “confidential(see PwC’s response in French: http://www.bloomassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Réponse-PWC_Mars2013.pdf).

 

According to Bloom’s calculations, the number of jobs directly linked to deep-sea fishing is between 44 and 112 (deep-sea species catch accounting for 25 to 40% of vessel activity),[3] or 0.2 to 0.5% of French fishermen[4] and 132 to 470 jobs in total resulting from deep-sea species catch in France (depending on the initial figure and multiplying factor used).[5]

 

This casts doubt on the whole economic model of deep-sea fisheries, which are heavily subsidized and loss-making, since their industrial equipment is out of proportion with resource availability and does not allow sustainable exploitation of these sensitive species in the most vulnerable marine environments. “The lobbies fear the collapse of this entire economic model, which is harmful for society, employment, and fisheries ecosystems. They are prepared to use the most far-fetched arguments, in an attempt to contest an idea whose time has come.” Claire Nouvian concludes.

 

***

 

See Patrick Vincent’s refutation of the embarrassing paper posted on Ifremer’s website, which carefully avoids challenging those responsible (left falsely anonymous, given the constant line of argument since the Grenelle de la Mer), in French:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfdLz5peH-g&feature=youtu.be

 

Read BLOOM’S response, which counters the attempt to create controversy, in French: http://www.bloomassociation.org/reponse-de-bloom-a-lentreprise-de-denigrement-des-lobbies/

 

See Pénélope Bagieu’s viral comic strip on deep-sea fishing: http://www.penelope-jolicoeur.com/2013/11/take-5-minutes-and-sign-this.html

 

Nearly 630,000 people have signed BLOOM’s petition calling for French president François Hollande to support the ban on deep-sea trawling: http://petition.bloomassociation.org/stop-the-destruction-of-deep-sea/

 

Over 300 international researchers support the proposal to ban deep-sea trawling: http://www.bloomassociation.org/une-petition-et-la-mobilisation-de-centaines-de-chercheurs-pour-rappeler-a-francois-hollande-dhonorer-ses-engagements/ (French only)

 

They support us: writers, actors, and sports personalities say “NO” to destructive fishing methods: http://www.bloomassociation.org/en/support/


[1] http://www.bloomassociation.org/en/the-new-economics-foundation-releases-a-report-on-deep-sea-fishing/

[2] Or 10, 215 tonnes of the species listed in appendices I & II of current legislation (CE N°2347/2002), out of a total fish catch of 450, 608 tonnes in 2011 (FAO data, 2011).

[3] The exact figure depends on whether the full vessel crew (112 FTE jobs) or a figure based on the deep-sea species catch percentage is used (44 FTE jobs).

[4] See key figures on the 2012 fishing sector: http://www.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/Chiffres_cle_peche.pdf

[5] The multipliers used here range from 1 job at sea creating 2 jobs on land, to 1 job at sea creating 3.2 jobs on land. Fisheries economists recognize that this is a high value for industrial vessels in developed countries.

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