Following on from the research programme on fisheries agreements, BLOOM has been investigating the destructive practices of the European Union’s distant water fishing fleets in African waters.
This research has led our NGO to take a closer look at tuna fishing in the Indian Ocean, where France and Spain are key players. They are a glaring example of the anti-environmental and neo-colonial practices of distant water fleets in Africa, which bear a major responsibility for the degradation of marine ecosystems and tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean.
Read about all the stages of our campaign in chronological order.
Revelation #1: The tuna lobbies’ war prize
BLOOM launches this campaign with a shocking revelation, exposing a case of harmful complicity between the French state and industrial fishing lobbies.
14 November 2022: BLOOM and French anti-corruption NGO ANTICOR warn of a case of public-private transfer that causes a clear conflict of interest in the tuna fishing sector. The NGOs discovered that the person responsible within the administration of negotiating access to African tuna resources for French industrial fishing fleets had been recruited by the largest tuna fishing lobby in France, ‘ORTHONGEL’, a member of the European industrial lobby ‘EUROPECHE’, without respecting the three-year waiting period required by law. By reporting this defector case to the French Public Prosecutor, BLOOM and ANTICOR intend not only to ensure that the rules of probity and integrity, which are the absolute prerequisite for public action, are respected, but also to shed light on a system that cultivates conflicts of interest in order to favour the financial interests of industrialists to the detriment of the general interest and in particular the protection of the environment and living organisms.
16 November 2022: BLOOM and Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) file a formal complaint to the EU Transparency Register against both the French tuna lobby Orthongel and EU-wide industrial fishing lobby Europêche.
2 December 2022: The Parquet national financier (or PNF, a French institution tasked with investigation and prosecution in instances of financial crime) has decided to open an inquiry following our revelations on the collusion between French public powers and anti-environmental lobbies.
Revelation #2: The European Union’s squashing of Indian Ocean countries
6 December 2022: Frédéric Le Manach, Scientific Director at BLOOM, co-authored a publication in the scientific journal Frontiers examining the relationship between the subsidies distant fishing nations have received for their development in the Indian Ocean and the current negotiations for the allocation of fishing possibilities within the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC).
→ Sinan et al. (2022, 6 December). Subsidies and allocation : A legacy of distortion and intergenerational loss. Frontiers.
12 January 2023: BLOOM reveals the shocking results of a ground-breaking study on lobbyists within official delegations during twenty years of negotiations on tropical tuna in Africa, between 2002 and 2022. Our analysis, focusing on 2,778 negotiators from 30 countries making up the delegations at the IOTC annual meetings since 2002, shows that from the moment in 2015 when neighbouring countries demanded a more equal share of marine resources and the implementation of environmental protection measures, the European Union suddenly doubled the size of its delegations from 22 people before 2015 to an average of 40 people after 2015, in order to block any form of environmental progress and economic emancipation in Africa and the Indian Ocean.
30 January 2023: While two potentially game-changing IOTC meetings begin in Mombasa (Kenya), BLOOM calls on the EU to completely change its stance and adopt the urgent measures tabled by India to protect the marine environment.
5 February 2023: Indonesia’s proposal for a temporary ban on drifting fish aggregating devices (FADs), for three months per year, is adopted during a meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) in Mombasa. However, the European Union has already threatened to oppose this new resolution.
Revelation #3: France’s lack of control over its tuna fishing fleets
6 March 2023: BLOOM continues its legal actions and investigations to limit the omnipotence and impact of opaque distant fishing activities, which are excessively destructive for marine life and the ocean’s health. In addition to bringing the French administration’s abnormal behavior to court, BLOOM today reveals the results of a groundbreaking study, showing that the French State holds no control over its industrial distant-water vessels.
Revelation #4: How the EU defends its destructive fishing practices in the Indian Ocean
29 March 2023: After having put enormous pressure on developing countries to oppose environmental progress in the Indian Ocean, the European Commission officially submits its objection proposal to Member States at the Council of the EU against the only ecological measure ever voted in favor of the recovery of fish populations and selective fishing in the Indian Ocean, that is the annual 72-day ban on drifting Fish Aggregating Devices (d-FADs) that was adopted in early February in the area.
5 April 2023: BLOOM decodes how industrial tuna fishing lobbies line up their political allies to defend their destructive practices in Africa in a new report. “Lining up the ducks” delves into ‘behind the scenes’ politics to debunk the false arguments put forth by industrial lobbies, the European Commission, and parliamentarians.
9 April 2023: In two documents published online for an international conference on the management of tropical tuna, which makes up a large part of the canned food found in Europe, the European tropical tuna fishing lobbies — Europêche, OPAGAC and ANABAC — forget to anonymize the latest changes they have made to the official position of Seychelles, which entirely favors their own interests.
Revelation #5: A technological race against marine life
27 April 2023: BLOOM releases a groundbreaking report — “Tuna war games” – which for the first time comprehensively traces the history of the high-tech industrial deployment of northern countries in southern waters: a highly-efficient and methodical draining that is pushing marine life to the brink.
10 May 2023: BLOOM files two appeals with the European Commission and the French Directorate General for Maritime Affairs, Fisheries and Aquaculture (DGAMPA), following the objections filed by these two institutions against the decision taken last February by the IOTC to partially ban ‘Fish Aggregating Devices’ (FADs) — a highly destructive fishing method — for part of the year.
Revelation #6: Human rights abuses in the tuna industry
16 May 2023: BLOOM releases a report in close collaboration with the International Human Rights Clinic of the Harvard Law School. “Canned Brutality” demonstrates the willful ignorance of governments and corporations and their failure to address human rights abuses and ensure the protection and respect of the rights of tuna workers.
30 May 2023: Negotiations on the revision of the “Control Regulation” were concluded on the wire. Major advances in terms of transparency and monitoring of fishing activities have been achieved, but a handful of French and Spanish tuna vessels are rubbing their hands together…
Revelation #7: Flagrant fraud by European vessels targeting tropical tuna
1 June 2023: BLOOM and Blue Marine Foundation file a complaint against all 21 vessels of the French-registered tropical tuna fishing fleet, for the illegal extinction of their AIS (Automatic Identification System) beacons. Apart from small-scale fishing, all vessels must keep their AIS beacons switched on at all times. However, between 1 January 2021 and 25 April 2023, these tuna vessels switched off their beacons 37% to 72% of the time. This complaint echoes our “Eyes Wide Shut” report on the lack of control of the French tuna fleet.
27 June 2023: The European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries adopted the provisional agreement of the “Control Regulation” by 20 votes to 8.
4 August 2023: The resolution for a temporary ban on FADs in the Indian Ocean is cancelled following intense lobbying by the European Commission and European tuna fishing lobbies.
5 September 2023: In an editorial, the scientific journal Nature warns of the anti-environmental decisions taken by the EU to defend the interests of the French and Spanish industrial fleets: “The EU itself (…) has been fighting conservation measures in the Indian Ocean that would curb chronic overfishing of yellowfin tuna. French and Spanish ships harvest up to one-third of tuna in these waters with the aid of fish-aggregating devices – large floating structures made of wood or plastic that attract fish, including juveniles, and are associated with unsustainable fisheries.”
Revelation #8: The reality behind the MSC eco-label
Many retail chains and brands rely on the MSC (“Marine Stewardship Council”) ecolabel to sell supposedly “sustainable” seafood to their consumers, but this is a sham with dramatic consequences for marine ecosystems.
13 September 2023: In the report “The death label”, BLOOM reveals that catches by MSC-certified fisheries using FADs have exploded; they now account for more than half the world’s total certified tuna catches, or 1.2 of the 2.2 billion kilos, and almost half the world’s tuna catches are already MSC-certified.
Revelation #9: The complicity of european retailers
Tuna is the French and Europeans’ favourite fish, the vast majority of whom buy it from supermarkets. However, supermarkets knowingly sell tuna products which originate from destructive tropical fisheries.
8 november 2023: BLOOM releases the ground-breaking ranking “Willful Ignorance” of european supermarkets on their tuna supply. Our investigation reveals that supermarkets are selling European consumers tuna-based products that are associated with human rights violations and the large-scale massacre of marine life.
The same day, BLOOM launched a petition so that supermarkets stop destroying the ocean. Furthermore, we sent a formal notice to Carrefour, the 7th largest supermarket chain in the world, for flagrant breach of its duty of vigilance regarding its tuna supply.