22 September 2020
Day of mourning for small-scale fishers — Celebration day for the industry
22 September 2020
On 25 September 2020, a historic mobilization for French fishers will take place: the symbolic funeral of the artisanal fishing sector will be organized by BLOOM, LIFE (Low Impact Fishers of Europe), Plateforme de la Petite Pêche Artisanale (the French small-scale fishers association), and Pleine Mer, to protest against the christening of SCOMBRUS, a new 81-meter long giant trawler. This event should gather several hundred people from 10:30am onward, in front of the headquarter of SCOMBRUS’s owner France Pélagique, in Concarneau.
Politicians’ cornelian choice
Many ministers, elected officials and representatives of the fishing sector are invited to this symbolic funeral, but also to SCOMBRUS’s christening. These include Annick Girardin, France’s Minister of the Sea, Julien Denormandie, France’s Minister of Agriculture and Food, Gérard Romiti, President of the National Fisheries Committee, Olivier Le Nezet, President of Brittany’s Fisheries Committee, and Frédéric Gueudar-Delahaye, France’s Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture. By their presence alongside France Pélagique or artisanal fishers and NGOs, these public figures will have to take an unavoidable stance: defend small-scale coastal fishers or, on the contrary, the industrialization of the sector, which is synonymous with the plundering of marine ecosystems, the monopolization of quotas, contempt for the common good, and the disappearance of small-scale fishers.
> Call on the French Minister of the Sea, Mrs. Annick Girardin, and ask her to support artisanal fishers www.bloomassociation.org/funerailles
A sprawling Dutch empire
France Pélagique is a French subsidiary of Dutch giant Cornelis Vrolijk, whose sprawling empire extends far beyond Europe, from France to Nigeria, via the United Kingdom. In addition to its unconsidered love for giant trawlers over 80m — and up to almost 130m long — Cornelis Vrolijk is also one of the most powerful promoters of electric fishing.
Through this capture of foreign quotas, Dutch industrials infiltrate the bodies that are supposed to represent French fishers, such as ‘regional committees’ or the National Fisheries Committee, as well as producer organizations. For example, France Pélagique’s former managing director Antoine Dhellemmes (replaced by his son Geoffrey in January 2020), is vice-president of the National Fisheries Committee and he also chairs of the producer organization FROM NORD, which covers over 128,000 tons of quotas in France, i.e. nearly 40% of the national total.
France Pélagique is not the only French subsidiary of Dutch companies, given that Euronor, Compagnie des pêches de Saint Malo, and Compagnie française du thon océanique are also owned by another Dutch giant, Parlevliet & van der Plas. “This strategy of entryism by the Dutch into the French fishing sector is far from insignificant. To a large extent, it explains the continuous betrayal of small-scale, coastal fishers by their so-called official representatives, as clearly evidenced during our campaign against electric fishing. These very strong financial ties also explain why the French government remains silent in the face of the bandit behavior of Dutch industrials”, explains Frédéric Le Manach, scientific director of BLOOM.
A legal looting of the common good
Giant trawlers regularly generate strong tensions with artisanal fishers. To build such a massive vessel, it is necessary to obtain a permit that corresponds to the vessel’s tonnage. “Nothing is created, everything is transformed,” explains Charles Braine, former fisher and president of Pleine Mer, who initiated the event. “It is therefore necessary to destroy many small-scale units in order for such vessels to obtain a right to fish. The SCOMBRUS alone can catch 200 tons of fish per day, while a vessel of less than 12m catches few tons per annum. It is paramount that fishers mobilize themselves and create a true power balance, at the risk of quickly attending to the real funeral of artisanal fishing”.
SCOMBRUS is not an isolated case. Many other fishing techniques are causing outrage among fishers. “We have been denouncing for years a number of practices that devastate marine ecosystems and our livelihoods, such as Danish seine, which is once again at the initiative of Dutch industrials. Their predation is causing our disappearance”, explains Gwen Pennarun, president of the Ligneurs de la pointe de Bretagne group (Brittany’s hooks-and-lines fishers association). This raises the legitimate question of the fishing sector’s current model, which is based on granting public subsidies and quotas to powerful companies that then monopolize a common good, without equity for local small fishers, threatening the very survival of coastal communities.
The trends at work at the global level — be it the climate breakdown, which is more intense and rapid than in our worst predictions, or the collapse of biodiversity — call for strong positions from our political decision-makers. The industrialization of fisheries is a thing of the past. Rendezvous on 25 September at 10:30 am in the port of Concarneau to bid it farewell.
Notes and references
 SCOMBRUS’s christening expenses amount to 100,000 EUR, i.e. the price of a fishing vessel of less than 12m.