14 April 2021
DUTCH INTERFERENCE IN EUROPEAN FISHERIES
14 April 2021
As was the case with electric fishing, Dutch lobbies have adopted a fait accompli strategy to impose Danish seine (also called flyshooter by the Dutch industry) in the English Channel. This strategy consists of developing a fishing gear and monopolising resources while ignoring the laws and the anger of neighbouring fishers. But when the situation becomes very tense, the industry finally seeks the consent of other fishers. This is how Dutch industrial fishing orchestrates the legitimacy of the Danish seine, which is much criticised by artisanal fishers. BLOOM deciphers the stakes and the dangers of an agreement between the stakeholders that would not be ambitious enough to protect the resource and the artisanal fishers.
A GROWING DISCONTENT
Having exhausted the resources in their waters, particularly in the North Sea, the Dutch industry must conquer new fishing grounds. This is how the Danish seine became so popular in Europe, particularly in the Channel. The attraction of this technique is above all linked to its fuel savings compared to a bottom trawl. The financial stakes are therefore at the heart of the battle for these few dozen boats. Indeed, the Dutch industry owns at least 30 vessels, 13 of which are under French (France Pélagique), Belgian, German or English flags. These industrial vessels are up to 38 metres long. The fishers are up in arms against this technique, which they consider too efficient and non-regulated. For example, clashes have already taken place in Boulogne-sur-Mer, where fishers blocked the Loubet basin in December 2020 to denounce the presence of these seiners. The constant presence of Dutch fishers in the Channel is so disturbing that French seiners are also denouncing it. In France, according to the European fleet register, there are 25 seiners, 10 of which are registered in Boulogne-sur-Mer (their size is between 19 and 25 metres).
AN AGREEMENT TO VALIDATE A CONTESTED PRACTICE
For more than a year, Dutch lobbies have been trying to reach an agreement called the Gentleman Agreement with neighbouring countries in order to silence criticism. Several confidential meetings have been held to negotiate a framework for bottom seining in the Channel. The dice are obviously loaded because only a handful of people with private interests represent the fishers. At the helm of the negotiations, VisNed (the Dutch lobby that also defends electric fishing) is trying to convince the representatives of the other countries to sign an undemanding agreement. Among the negotiators, British fishers are represented by the Dutchman Andries de Boer, director of the British Lowestoft Fish Producers Organisation! The fate of British fishers is therefore in the hands of those who motivated the vast majority of small-scale fishers to vote for Brexit. On the Belgian side, the negotiator is a representative of the company Padmos, a shipbuilder, including seiners. It was a daring move. On the French side, fishers are represented by the Comité National des Pêches, the Comité Régional des Pêches des Hauts-de-France, the Comité Régional des Pêches de Normandie, the Organisation de Producteurs de Normandie, the Organisation de Producteurs FROM Nord and the Coopérative Maritime Etaploise.
UNCONTROLLABLE AND THEREFORE USELESS FISHING CONSTRAINTS.
The tensions between fishers are a clear symptom of the need for a strict framework. But it is essential to ensure that it is respected. However, the Gentleman’s Agreement wants to limit the number of fishing days, parameters that are totally uncontrollable. Indeed, it is hard to believe that such a limitation will be respected when one knows the history of fraud committed by the Dutch fishing industry. The example of electric fishing is particularly significant: despite BLOOM’s warnings and complaints against their illegal licences, the European Commission takes no action and allows the Netherlands to trample on European law. Fraudulent practices by trawlers fishing with electricity (or not) often make the headlines in the Dutch press: fishing in protected areas, illegal mesh sizes, undersized fish, etc. These frauds, which are known to all, are often the result of a number of factors. These frauds, known to all, including the Commission, have reached such proportions that the Dutch fishers’ organisation Vissersbond sent a letter asking all its members to stop cheating on mesh sizes. Indeed, their analysis of catches landed at auctions showed that too many small sole were being caught as a result of the use of non-regulatory mesh sizes.
The Gentleman Agreement also wants to limit the mesh size to 70 mm, even though the European regulation (Regulation 2019/1241) specifies that it must be at least 80 mm. However, the Dutch industry is currently using a non-regulatory mesh size by exploiting a flaw in the regulation on technical measures. Indeed, it can be 70 mm in the case of targeted squid fishing. However, the definition of targeted species has disappeared from this regulation, it can be defined at regional level in delegated acts. This lack of safeguards creates an opportunity to use a smaller mesh size. How could the co-legislators of this regulation – the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union – have left such a legal vacuum? It is likely that industry lobbies are behind this regulatory flaw.
FRAUD ON LANDINGS
Seiners mainly target species not subject to quotas, such as red mullet and squid. However, the lack of control in English and European waters encourages fraud on landings of species not subject to quotas, as only estimates can be given for catches outside the quota between 2012 and 2016. Dutch Danish seine vessels are particularly pointed out in the specialist journal Fishing News. This possible fraud echoes the letter of formal notice sent to the Netherlands in October 2020 by the European Commission, which considers that this Member State does not ensure proper control of landings in their ports, which can lead to overfishing and failure to respect quotas.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO LIMIT THE APPETITE OF THESE VESSELS?
Faced by an industry that thinks it has free rein, some fishers want to create a marine area reserved for fishing by vessels of less than 25 metres only. As a result, the largest seiners and giant trawlers would be effectively excluded, and the sharing of the area would be more equitable among fishers. Combating Dutch investments based on gigantism is a major challenge. Once the resources are exhausted, the voracious appetite of the industry will shift to other areas and other species. What if their next targets were whelks and scallops caught in Normandy?
NOTES AND REFERENCES
 BLOOM recalls its opposition to the Danish seine because this fishing method is too efficient. It is all the more damaging to ecosystems as the Dutch use it on large vessels, some of which are 38 metres long.
 The CNPMEM has 42 members, including 12 representatives of the regional committees (CRPMEM), 13 representatives of sea fishing companies and 1 for marine farming, 3 representatives of maritime cooperatives and 11 representatives of producer organisations. There is no representation of small-scale fishing, which does not even have a consultative role. On the other hand, the former Director General of France Pélagique, Antoine Dhellemmes (replaced by his son Geoffrey since January 2020), is 4th vice-president of the National Fisheries Committee and president of the FROM NORD producer organisation, which alone manages more than 128,000 tonnes of quotas in France, i.e. almost 40% of the national total.
 Regulation 2019/1241: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/FR/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32019R1241&from=EN
According to Article 6: “‘directed fishing’ means fishing effort targeted at a specific species or group of species and may be further specified at regional level in delegated acts adopted pursuant to Article 27(7) of this Regulation“
LIST OF DUTCH OR DUTCH-OWNED SEINERS
|External marking||Name of the vessel||Flag||Capital||Size|
|SC 10||Amrumbank||Germany||Netherlands||32 m|
|Z 35||Ora et Labora||Belgium||Netherlands||38.22 m|
|Z-296||MOOIE MEID||Belgium||Netherlands||38 m|
|CC 545-2||Tourmalet||France||Netherlands||34 m|
|CC 622||Larche||France||Netherlands||34 m|
|GO 01||Wouter Adriaantje||Netherlands||Netherlands||26.99 m|
|SCH 135||Galibier||Netherlands||Netherlands||34 m|
|SCH 65||Simplon||Netherlands||Netherlands||34 m|
|SL 09||Johanna||Netherlands||Netherlands||34.3 m|
|SL 27||Johannes||Netherlands||Netherlands||35.79 m|
|SL 45||Stellar||Netherlands||Netherlands||31.67 m|
|UK 112||Wilhelmina||Netherlands||Netherlands||28.3 m|
|UK 124||Luut Senior||Netherlands||Netherlands||24.98 m|
|UK 135||Sjoerd Hendrikje||Netherlands||Netherlands||24.98 m|
|UK 145||Teunis van Atje||Netherlands||Netherlands||27.10 m|
|UK 150||Polar||Néerlandais||Netherlands||32 m|
|UK 153||Lub Senior||Néerlandais||Netherlands||28.5 m|
|UK 160||Riemda||Néerlandais||Netherlands||32.9 m|
|UK 22||Stella Polaris||Néerlandais||Netherlands||30.5 m|
|UK 224||Tunis van Luut||Néerlandais||Netherlands||33.55 m|
|UK 48||Nova Cura||Néerlandais||Netherlands||28.6 m|
|UK 642||Berendina||Néerlandais||Netherlands||27.12 m|
|E 104||Ansgar||UK||Netherlands||36.6 m|
|FD 157||Jacoba Maria||UK||Netherlands||36 m|
|GY127||HENDRIKA JACOBA||UK||Netherlands||23.88 m|
|LH 356||Henk Senior||UK||Netherlands||28.62 m|
|LT 295||Jonge Johannes||UK||Netherlands||31 m|
|LT 43||Annalijdia||UK||Netherlands||37.51 m|
|PZ198||AALTJE ADRIAANTJE||UK||Netherlands||28.6 m|