Making a Killing: 150 tonnes of fish in one haul – a crime by any yardstick

Press Release 

Following the catch of 150 tons of meagre by the purse seiner War Raog IV, amounting to 20% of the annual French catch of this species, we call on the Government of France to close this and other regulatory loopholes that allow this and other intensive fishing activities to destroy our fisheries with impunity.

On Tuesday 21 February 2023, off the coast of Ondres in the Landes region, the 17 metre fishing vessel War Raog IV, owned by the Dutch multinational company Cornelis Vrolijk, using the bolinche – a traditional surface set purse seine net –  made a bumper catch  on a shoal of meagre (Argyrosomus Regius). The haul comprised between 120 and 150 tonnes of fish weighing between 10 and 80 kg each. This amounted to almost 20% of the annual catch of this species taken by French professional fishermen.

The crowding of thousands of fish into the seine net inevitably led to their death. Releasing them alive was not possible. With a maximum storage capacity of 20 to 30 tonnes, the seiner had to dump between 90 and 120 tonnes. A huge waste was averted thanks to the presence of another seiner, which, along with around thirty commercial fishing boats and pleasure craft were able to recover most of the discards.

The following day, Wednesday 22 February, at the Saint-Jean de Luz fish auction, a total of 115 tonnes of meagre sold for an average of €4.5/kg. This is a derisory price for a such a high value species. Normally its price reaches up to €20/kg at auction. The viability of many vessels, mainly small-scale coastal fishing vessels, i.e. less than 12 metres long and operating close to the coast, depends on getting a good price for it. In 2022, many handliners and gill netters compensated for the drop in sole quotas and the rarity of sea bass by fishing for meagre.  It is also a very popular species for recreational fishing. 

A knowledge gap should not mean a regulatory gap

Like many species, there are no regulations to limit fishing on meagre, with the exception of a minimum landing size of 35 cm, considered to be far too small. This lack of regulation is due to the lack of scientific knowledge on the dynamics of the meagre population.  Very little is known about the meagre fishery, and its survival depends largely on chance. Commercial fish catches vary between 600 and 1000 tonnes per year in France. It is not known whether such volumes (combined with those taken by pleasure craft) are really sustainable.

We do know, however, that this type of hyper-efficient fishing gear applied in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and on the wrong species, can wipe out a fish population in a few years. This is also the case gears like pelagic trawls used by factory ships (supertrawlers) that can measure 144 metres in length, the semi-pelagic trawl (known as the “four-panel” trawl), the demersal seine and the purse seine. Equipped as they are with ultra-efficient electronics that allow them to detect fish shoals several kilometres distant, and equipped with nets that are several tens of metres deep and capable of encircling entire shoals of fish weighing several dozen up to several hundred tonnes.

For other high value species such as sea bream (Sparidae) and mullet this knowledge and regulatory vacuum also applies. Pollack, although subject to quota management, is witnessing dramatic decreases in both size and abundance, with no remedial action being taken.

Lack of knowledge should not allow overfishing to go unchecked. For years we have known about the fragility of marine ecosystems. In particular slow-growing, long-lived species such as meagre, sea bass and sea bream are extremely vulnerable to fishing pressure. What this requires are precautionary regulations that impose tonnage limits per vessel, per period, along with biological rest periods during spawning, in order to prevent the large  spawning aggregations from falling victim to these destructive acts. 

We therefore call on the French authorities to take immediate and urgent measures to prevent such destructive activity from happening again. 

One fisher’s dream is another one’s nightmare

Our future and the future of fishing can’t be sustained by such destructive activity. Rather we must respect and value our marine environment and take great care in how we extract fish from it.

Some fishers may dream of taking such a bumper catch. But such dreams quickly become nightmares for others who try to fish within the limits of nature, adding value to their catches so as to earn a decent living. Making a killing should not come at the expense of making a living.

Another kind of fishing is possible. Let’s work together for a positive change and a viable and sustainable future.


  • Gwen Pennarun, Chairman of the Handliners Association of Pointe de Bretagne
  • Anne-Marie Vergez, Co-Chair of the French Platform of Small-Scale Artisanal Fishing
  • Denez L’Hostis, Honorary President of France Nature Environnement
  • Philippe Garcia, Chairman of Défense des Milieux Aquatiques
  • Claire Nouvian, President of the BLOOM Association
  • Marta Cavallé, Executive Secretary of the Low Impact Fishers of Europe




Photo : War Raog IV at Concarneau, France © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0

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