05 July 2023
Defamation, slander, and conspiracy: the last resort of a cornered destructive industry
05 July 2023
« A last trick is to become personal, insulting, rude, as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand, and that you are going to come off worst. It consists in passing from the subject of dispute, as from a lost game, to the disputant himself, and in some way attacking his person ».
Arthur Schopenhauer, « The Art of Being Right ».
BLOOM is once again under attack from the industrial fishing sector. Their methods and goals are near identical to those employed during our successful campaign against deep sea fishing (many of the industrial actors are unchanged): making defamatory arguments and claims of conspiracy to undermine our reputation, maligning our intentions, disputing our integrity and funding, and of course, in the end, eroding our reach and continuing their unjustifiable destructive activities despite climate change, collapsing marine ecosystems and unprecedented ocean warming.
Incapable of winning the debate about fishing practices (see below for the number of cases of fraud, corruption and illegal fishing we have pursued at the tribunal relating to industrial fishing), they have resorted to attacking individuals in a textbook case of logical fallacies. Industrial lobbyists Europêche, Opagac, le Comité National des Pêches Français and their political and media mouthpieces have resurrected their old, groundless claims that BLOOM is financed by fossil fuel companies. Our accounts have always been public and transparent, so it only takes two clicks on our website to see that these assertions are “fake news”. We can only assume that when attacking BLOOM, the industrial fishing sector was following the advice of Francis Bacon “Slander boldly, something always sticks”.
All that these lobbies have achieved by employing base tactics, at times even resorting to intimidation (see the threats made by Olivier Le Nézet, the president of the Comité des Pêches, when he met Caroline Roose, an EELV Member of European Parliament (MEP), witnessed and reported by our founder Claire Nouvian on LinkedIn), is exposing that their destructive practices in the ocean are mirrored by their use of destructive rhetoric on land. Threats, lies, bad faith, disinformation and personal attacks are their go to.
By behaving in this way industrial fishing lobbies united a small group of internal lobbyists (elected officials who campaign relentlessly to wreck artisanal fishing and cover up the damage done by industrial fisheries), but they discredited themselves in the eyes of any serious parties. Observing who proliferates the “fake news” these lobbies generate reveals their political allies and the backers of their defamation campaigns.
They were the architects of their own downfall during our deep-sea fishing campaign, and they seem intent on repeating the same mistakes now. By attacking us they are recognizing our position as the most effective NGO in Europe fighting against the environmental, socio-economic, and democratic disaster that is industrial fishing. They know we have won the argument, and this is their only remaining recourse, slandering us in the hopes of redirecting the conversation.
These attacks against BLOOM are indicative of a crushing victory for citizens against these despoilers of the ocean. We must add to our ranks to oppose them with an indestructible army of citizens!
We will win in the end.
Why? Because abandoning an economic model that is based on the destruction of nature for the sole purpose of maximizing individual profits is not “optional”. It is a necessity dictated by biodiversity loss and the climate change.
The practices needed to feed humanity without annihilating ecosystems already exist, it’s just a matter of implementation. Maximizing employment opportunities while minimizing their impacts is our objective. This is precisely what industrial lobbyists refuse to do. The extractivism economic model is outdated and doomed to fail and yet industrial fishing groups have no intention of changing their practices. Instead, they intend to continue profiting from a system that authorizes their ecological crimes. Their antagonism is just beginning. But our determination is unfaltering.
Bellow, we have analyzed the facts of the dirty war that the fishing lobby has waged against BLOOM for years. We couldn’t resist taking a scientific approach to recounting this sequence of events: we will quantify and break down past and present accusations of conspiracy produced by industrial fishing lobbies. This will be a lengthy process.
BLOOM’s secret mission as an agent of fossil fuel giants: The heart of the conspiracy theory
During our campaign against deep sea fishing, BLOOM and our partners were the targets of the same lobbies attacking us today. They even created a baseless structure for these attacks: “Blue Fish”.
This bogus association which claims to “promote sustainable and responsible fishing” was brought into existence at the European Parliament on the 8th of March 2013 supported by Maire de Lorient (Norbert Métairie) and sponsored by MEP Isabelle Thomas. Blue Fish united the most ardent defenders of industrial fishing: Olivier Le Nézet, Norbert Métairie, Isabelle Thomas of the Partie Socialiste, Nicolas Teisseire a Lorient lobbyist paid using public funds…The organization is equivalent to the UIPP (Union of Industries for the “Protection” of Plants) which is made up of multinational synthetic chemistry companies under the guise of “protecting” nature.
See our reports of these events (in French)
Who finances and directs the industrial fishing lobbies? One obvious candidate is the municipality of Lorient, where the urban planning agency Audélor hosts “Blue Fish” on their premises. Audélor also launched an investigation into NGOs (Novembre 2012) which turned into a conspiracy theory against NGOs (the “Blue Charity Business” theory which claimed that French NGOs are heavily funded by American petrol companies). The Lorient Mayor’s office has never replied to the missives sent by NGOs asking them to explain their position on these investigations and hidden financial backers.
This series of lies was denounced by « Le Canard Enchaîné » on the 4th of Decembre 2013 in an article titled « Intermarché touche les fonds ».
One of the core arguments of Blue Fish’s conspiracy theory was that the American Pew foundation, which supports some of BLOOM’s projects, was using BLOOM to exclude fishers from using the ocean to enable the development of oil fields.
Claire Nouvian has been clarified the situation in 2014: “This myth originated because the American NGO Pew was founded using and oil fortune in the 1950s, and later financed many NGOs to obtain essential regulations such as prohibiting the removal of sharks’ fins at sea in Europe. According to them (Blue Fish) Pew’s origins and donations make it a trojan horse for the global petrol lobby. Do they even believe their own ramblings? I’m not sure.”
In summary, the industrial fishing lobby set up “Blue Fish”, which is still in operation, to defend deep-sea fishing which subsequently created fictitious reports which convinced nobody except those who wrote them.
The latest attack on BLOOM’s allegedly hidden links to oil interests
On Tuesday 4 July 2023, ‘Le Point’ published an article entitled “The strange case of BLOOM’s Chair” (“L’étrange président de l’ONG de défense des océans BLOOM”), written by Erwan Seznec. Before analysing the facts of the matter and breaking down the lies which have been told let’s look into the context surrounding this article.
A quick update on our President and governance
Mr Flavien Kulawik has been BLOOM’s Chair since June 2019.
He totally refutes the allegation that he “amassed his fortune” as a service provider to the plastics and oil industries. Since 1995, he has co-founded seven business services companies. One of these businesses, the KLB Group, conducts a small amount of work for these industries. KLB Group’s activities are unrelated to Flavien Kulawic’s personal and voluntary activities. He devotes his time to several causes, including education, entrepreneurship and the environment. Mr. Kulawik is the first to admit he has no always been ecologically inclined. In 2019, he said, “15 years ago, if someone had told me I was going to support an environmental association… I would have said it wasn’t for me.”. Over the last decade public awareness and concern environmental degradation have increased and many people have changed their stance on ecological issues. It is those who dissuade this shift who we find concerning.
The role of BLOOM’s Chair, alongside his Board of Directors, is to ensure good governance, excellent management, and that the donations of BLOOM’s thousands of donors are effectively devoted to projects in line with our mission. As a factual reminder, BLOOM’s Chair does not interfere in day-to-day operations or the editorial line, contrary to the insinuations made in the article in Le Point.
Flavien Kulawik’s support for BLOOM’s actions has always been unfailing. In accepting the status of Chair, he also took the risk of exposing himself to the ad personam attacks he is facing today. We offer him our full support and gratitude.
Who is the ‘journalist’ Erwan Seznec?
When this gentleman contacted us with his questions, his name was familiar to some of BLOOM’s team. In fact, Mr Seznec had already contacted us in 2019, posing as a freelancer for the left-wing newspaper ‘Marianne’. Bloom replied in good faith, assuming that any respectable journalist would not lie unnecessarily and we were surprised to discover an article shortly thereafter in the far-right magazine ‘Causeur’. This article was not an outlier, given that between March 2017 and April 2022, Mr Seznec published an average of two articles a month, 122 in total, which make his negative stance on “environmentalists” quite clear .
Furthermore, we have reason to believe that ‘Causeur’ shares these views. A few months prior to the publication of this article the managing editor of ‘Causeur’, Elisabeth Lévy, had a debate with Claire Nouvian on a French controversy-sparking TV show.Furthermore, the majority shareholder of ‘Causeur’ is a well-known member of the French far-right and owner of ‘Minute’, another far-right newspaper.
Fact-checking of their conspiracy theories
Our Chair is said to have “amassed his fortune” as a service provider for the plastics and oil industries, according to an article published in right-wing French newspaper ‘Le Point’ on the 4th of July. This “news” was widely circulated by the fishing trade press and industrial fishing lobbies. In fact, the latter may even have been behind the article, as was the case during our campaign against deep-sea bottom trawling. One month ago, on the 7th of June, one of our informants told us that the Europêche lobby had boasted that it was preparing a complaint about our alleged funding. And here we are.
The timing of these attacks is noteworthy. First ,in November of 2022 BLOOM began a long-term campaign against French and Spanish tropical tuna fishing, whose practices — unreservedly supported by the French and Spanish governments and the European Commission — are seriously threatening marine ecosystems and coastal economies all around Africa (see our ‘TunaGate’ campaign page). As part of this campaign, the director of the Europêche lobby’s ‘tuna group’ is under judicial investigation by the French National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (Parquet national financier) for illegal conflict of interests. Second, BLOOM is also at the European level to establish truly protected marine areas, specifically through an immediate ban on bottom trawling in these areas; this measure is part of the ongoing negotiations related to the ‘Nature restoration law’, which will be voted on in the plenary session of the European Parliament on Wednesday 12 July.
It is therefore unsurprising that all the parties affected by our claims are desperately clinging to this piece of misinformation:
- “Quite simply insane“, according to the omnipresent and multi-hatted Olivier Le Nézet, Chair of the French national committee of fisheries (the same man who threatens and intimidates elected representatives with impunity);
- In the meantime, European industrial lobbies are having a great time, denouncing a “conflict of interest” and questioning our goals and finances;
- Miguel Herrera of the Spanish tuna fishers’ union OPAGAC believes that “BLOOM seems to join the group cynics, trying to eliminate sustainable offshore fishing to keep the ocean for themselves so as it can be freely exploited for petrol. Very honorable Agenda!!”;
- On the 7th of July, Europêche wrote to Member of European Parliament Younous Omarjee, asking him ” how can Claire Nouvian and BLOOM call for Nature Restoration while their president amassed wealth as a service provider to plastic & oil industries?”;
- Also on the 7th of July, the French trade newspaper ‘Le Marin’ ran an article entitled “Orthongel points the finger at the ambivalent governance of the NGO BLOOM”, with Orthongel denouncing “double standards”;
- On the 8th of July, the tuna sector newspaper ‘Atuna’ also wondered whether BLOOM was in the pocket of the oil industry.
Of course, none of these newspapers did their due diligence by asking BLOOM if any of this was true. Or they did, but ignored our answer, like Undercurrent News, which didn’t even bother pointing out that we were currently running a campaign entirely dedicated to fighting TotalEnergies (although we did provide a fairly explicit link in our response). Three people are working full-time on this campaign at BLOOM.
Usually, these same actors label us as “green denialists” but consistency is clearly not the strong suit of these conspiracy theorists.
Next let’s look at the facts. On this page, we are going to quantify and deconstruct, with our scientific approach, the accusations of conspiracy made by industrial lobbies, both past and present. This will be a long-term process, so this page will be edited and expanded on a regular basis, in order to tell this story in the most rigorous way.
Let’s move onto the false allegations made in this article riddled with errors and inconsistencies.
1) “BLOOM is said to be working hard to get [fishers] to give up land in favor of other players who need space to install wind turbines or oil platforms at sea”.
This statement is false. Anyone who visited our website could tell you this is false.
Since October 2022, in response to a warning from the South African NGO The Green Connection, BLOOM has been campaigning against TotalEnergies’s offshore gas development project in South Africa. On the 17th of October, we published our first investigative report, “Ocean TOTAL’s Destruction”, on the triple threat — to biodiversity, the climate, and artisanal fishers — posed by this venture, as well as a petition that has attracted almost 100,000 signatures.
While Mr Seznec claims that we are content with “fairly general statements against offshore oil and gas projects“, in November the CEO of TotalEnergies, Patrick Pouyanné, saw fit to respond to our campaign. While he continued to highlight his company’s “renewable energy portfolio“, in May we published a second report exposing TotalEnergies’ systematic greenwashing. BLOOM is also actively supporting the initiative by MEPs Raphaël Glucksmann (S&D) and Karima Delli (Greens) for a European legislation banning any new financing of fossil fuel exploitation by European companies.
Regarding wind turbines, our position is very clear: our campaign on marine protected areas also clearly concerns wind turbines and any other industrial activity, in line with the scientific recommendations of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). We have gone so far as to take the French government to Court to defend this position, and believe marine protected areas should be reserved for small-scale fishing under the ‘Nature Restoration Law’.
We would also suggest that Mr Seznec, who accuses us of driving fishers away in favor of wind turbines, read the debates on the location of the various planned offshore wind farms. Despite the public, local authorities, and artisanal fishers preferring that wind farms be located in remote areas with stable winds the French committee of fisheries regularly supports the development of windfarms which are located close to the coast (inland waters and territorial sea) instead. These same fisheries committees collect a non-negligible proportion of the tax obtained from these projects under the General Tax Code. We’re talking about millions of euros here. The committees that are supposed to be defending fishers are not concerned about wind turbines anymore.
2) “Overfishing is the number one threat to the oceans, ahead of global warming and plastic pollution, a position that is far from unanimous in the scientific community”.
Mr Seznec could just as easily have continued with “just as the impact of human activities on global warming is far from unanimous in the scientific community”.
BLOOM’s actions against industrial fishing are based on a scientific reality: overfishing is the leading cause of damage to marine biodiversity. This is neither an invention of BLOOM, nor “a position that is far from unanimous“, since it is the diagnosis of the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services), which is the authority in this area like the IPCC for the climate: “ fishing has had the most impact on biodiversity (target species, non-target species and habitats) in the past 50 years alongside other significant drivers “. Here are just a few examples of the scientific publications that describe the collapse of marine biodiversity (during the 20th and 21th centuries) due to the industrialization of the fishing trade:
- In the North Atlantic, 90% of marine predator species have disappeared since 1900;
- In the North Sea, the current biomass of fish weighing between 4 and 16 kilograms has fallen by 97.4% compared with the pre-industrial period. The decrease is 2% for fish weighing between 16 and 66 kilograms;
- A scientific study estimates that, at constant fishing effort, catches by trawlers operating in British waters have fallen by 94% since 1890, testifying to the depletion of the British seabed.
We’re quite sure that plastic has little to do with these trends, but let’s be clear: BLOOM is in no way denying the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean. However, this problem is second only to overfishing and global warming, and associations such as Surfrider — which we obviously support — are taking very concrete actions against this ecological disaster. Mr Seznec also reports Claire Nouvian’s statements on plastic pollution of the deep seabed, but chooses to see this as a diversionary strategy, in a hasty conclusion that is typical of conspiracy theorists. We have chosen to concentrate our limited resources on priority fronts, whereas the lobbies would like us to spread ourselves too thin.
To support his fallacious statements, Mr. Seznec has no hesitation in pulling out an IFREMER report published in January 2023, “Diagnostic 2022 sur les ressources halieutiques débarquées par la pêche française hexagonale” to explain that the situation in France is not so serious: “An Ifremer report published in January 2023 highlights “the positive evolution in the state of resources and their exploitation over the last twenty years”, with 51% of fish landed in 2022 coming from stocks in good condition, compared with only 20% in 2000.” No one is disputing these figures, but Mr Seznec’s comments are misleading, because the IFREMER report refers to “populations estimated not to be overfished (i.e. in good condition or capable of being rebuilt)” and not to “stocks in good condition“. To claim that all is well because half of the EUs fish landings do not come from overfished populations is quite bold. The situation is certainly improving, but we are still a long, long way from the Common Fisheries Policy’s stated objective of 100% of populations not being overfished by… 2020.
Notes and references
 Audélor and Blue Fish were then registered at the same address, with the same phone number: 12 avenue de la Perrière 56324 Lorient cedex. Phone: 02 97 88 22 44.
 Réponse disponible à : https://www.dropbox.com/s/c729grqi9rk315o/Re%20Demande%20presse%20Undercurrent%20news.pdf?dl=1.
 An example of a gross but unimportant error: Mr Seznec gives the floor to Xavier Leduc, Managing Director of Euronor (a trawler company based in Boulogne-sur-Mer, which has been heavily impacted by our campaign against deep-sea bottom trawling; a friend, therefore), President of the French tuna shipowners’ union Orthongel (which has been heavily impacted by our campaign against tropical tuna fishing; a friend, therefore), and President of the Union des armateurs à la pêche de France (you know the drill). The article states: “In September 2022, the European Commission will ban deep-sea trawling in the area west of Scotland“. Two gross errors in one sentence. This is a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council of the European Union dating from 2016… The reference to the European Commission and to September 2022 actually refers to the closure of 16,000 km2 of vulnerable marine ecosystems throughout the North-East Atlantic.
 IPBES, The Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Summary for policymakers, Bonn, 2019, p. 28. Available at: https://www.ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2020-02/ipbes_global_assessment_report_summary_for_policymakers_en.pdf.
 Christensen et al. (2003) Hundred-year decline of North Atlantic predatory fishes
 Voir la très bonne analyse annuelle de Didier Gascuel, professeur d’halieutique à l’Institut Agro, sur les tendances scientifiques : https://halieutique.institut-agro-rennes-angers.fr/files/images/actualites/2022_Gascuel_Bilan_CSTEP_Etat_des_stocks_europ%C3%A9ens_La%20surexploitation_recule.pdf.