The European Commission trumps its environmental and humanitarian mandate and acts as an industrial lobbyist in Africa

While industrial tuna lobbies are under judicial investigation in France for unlawful taking of interests, the neo-colonial actions of France and Spain continue to wreak havoc in Africa with the full support of the European Commission. After having put enormous pressure on developing countries to oppose environmental progress in the Indian Ocean, the European Commission has just proposed to the Council of the EU that an objection be lodged 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.

On 5 February 2023, coastal countries had achieved a real tour de force, by obtaining (by 16 votes against 23) a first annual ban on d-FADs in the Indian Ocean — such a temporary ban being enforced in all other oceans for conservation measures and as a precautionary principle. But because of intense lobbying by the European Commission and industrial lobbies, chances that this resolution of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) comes into effect are now null. 

The EU’s anti-democratic use of objections

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s governance is set up in such a way, that if a member of the IOTC objects to a resolution, it becomes non applicable to its fleet. Furthermore, should a third of IOTC members (i.e. 11 of them) object to a new resolution, it would automatically fall. This opens an avenue for anti-democratic post-vote lobbying to turn around decisions. A possibility which the EU has used to full extent. 

Right after the resolution was adopted, European tuna lobbies made it loud and clear that they would be calling on the European Commission and IOTC members to object to it.(1) This was shortly after confirmed by the European Commission,(2) which has now officially submitted its objection proposal to Member States at the Council of the EU on 29 March.(3) If Member States endorse the Commission’ objection proposal, the annulment threshold will undoubtably be reached, and the insufficient but indispensable first ban on FADs will fall.

The European Commission’s objection proposal is a shame on the EU

The role that the EU has been playing is incredibly harmful as the annulment of the FAD ban will put tuna populations and entire coastal economies at risk of collapsing. We urge EU Member States to reject the Commission’s objection proposal, for the sake of marine ecosystems and coastal communities in the Indian Ocean, but also to signal to industrial lobbies and their political allies that the era of impunity is over for them and that EU institutions will now be on the side of the climate and citizens. European citizens need to regain trust in their democratic regimes which are under the constant assault of industrial lobbies. EU institutions should stand firm on their ethical principles. The stakes are too high in Africa and Europe.

How industry lobbies have ‘lined up their ducks’

In a new report entitled ‘Lining up the ducks’, BLOOM decodes how industrial tuna fishing lobbies line up their political allies to defend their destructive practices in Africa. We have delved into ‘behind the scenes’ politics to debunk the false arguments put forth by industrial lobbies, the European Commission, and parliamentarians.

>Read our new report: ‘Lining up the ducks'<

A series of lies

To justify the unjustifiable, the European Commission and several parliamentarians from France, Spain, and the Netherlands, have indeed been parroting the lobbies’ semantics, deceiving other parliamentarians, Member States, and 447 million citizens for the benefits of a handful of private companies. In a cynical paroxysm, Spanish parliamentarian Gabriel Mato (European People’s Party; EPP) even said that the fact that the IOTC proposal was put to a vote — which it won with a two-third majority — was anti-democratic!(4) When it is rather the fact that countries can avoid a resolution by objecting to it after a democratic vote which strikes as the ‘anti-democratic’ process here, as it allows for hidden, undue and unspeakable pressures and blackmailing.

A headless European Commission and corrupt Member States

The fact that Gabriel Mato blindly supports Spanish interests comes as no surprise as he’s made his career as their institutional lobbyist. But the completely schizophrenic behavior of the European Commission is very worrisome. On the one hand, the institution warned that modifying a key element of the ‘Control Regulation’ called the ‘margin of tolerance’ would threaten the very basic principles of the Common Fisheries Policy,(5) on the other, the Commission refuses to sue France for allowing its fishers to trample it, and supports EU industrial lobbies in their fight against any constraint imposed upon FADs.

As a reminder, an infringement procedure was opened in June 2021 by the European Commission against France on two accounts:

  • France has so far completely failed to comply with its obligations to control its tuna fleets, as per the 2009 ‘Control Regulation’. In fact, France had not set any control objectives for these fleets in 2022 and 2023. On 6 March 2023, BLOOM sued France before the Administrative Court to obtain key data on the control of its fleets.(6) 
  • In 2015, France issued an illegal derogation to its tuna fleets, allowing them to disregard the EU legal framework. In particular, France allowed its fishers to report their catches with a margin of tolerance of 10% of the overall catch, rather than by species, as mandated by the 2009 ‘Control Regulation’. Although this might seem as an innocent difference to non-experts, it bears massive consequences for the quality of the collected data, and hence threatens basic principles of the Common Fisheries Policy, such as quotas.(7) On 6 March 2023, BLOOM also sued France before the State Council to obtain that this illegal derogation be withdrawn.(8) 


In November 2022, BLOOM and anti-corruption NGO Anticor also signalled to the French Public Prosecutor’s office a case of defector between the French administration and industrial fishing lobby Europêche, with a clear political mission to sabotage the Control Regulation.(9) In December 2023, the Prosecutor’s office confirmed having opened an inquiry. 

A ban on FADs is the only solution

The ‘margin of tolerance’ is an issue for European tuna fleets for one single reason: tuna vessels rely on ‘fish aggregating devices’ (FADs), whose use generates tremendous amounts of juvenile tuna being caught, particularly of yellowfin and bigeye tuna. Because the juvenile individuals of these two species look alike, tuna companies cannot report their catch by species. But this is a choice, not a fatality. The CEO of Sapmer, one of the three French companies that target tropical tuna, has made it clearer than anyone else: “As little FADs as possible is the path of virtue. But it is economic suicide”.(10)

To put this reliance in context, a few figures are particularly striking: in 2020 and 2021 (i.e. the last two years for which data were reported), French and Spanish owned purse seiners have made 87% of their catch using drifting FADs, which has in turn accounted for 94.5% of all d-FAD associated catch of tropical tuna species in the area.(11) However, as we are highlighting in our latest TunaGate instalment — Lining up the ducks —,(12)  both yellowfin tuna(13) and bigeye tuna(14) are overfished in the Indian Ocean, and skipjack tuna are fished beyond the catch limits agreed by the Commission.(15) Overall, 93% of yellowfin tuna and 94% of bigeye tuna caught in the Indian Ocean are juvenile fish, which might lead to a total collapse of the species in the Indian Ocean.

The European Commission cannot have it all. If it wants to protect tuna populations and preserve the integrity of the Common Fisheries Policy, it must 1) proceed with bringing France before the European Court of Justice, 2) withdraw its proposal for a reformed Control Regulation should the margin of tolerance be watered down, and 3) remove its proposal to the Council of the EU to object to the new IOTC FAD resolution and convince its partner countries — first and foremost the Seychelles and Mauritius —not to object or to withdraw their objection.


(1) See Europêche’s press release:

(2) The objection option was confirmed on March 1st by Mr. Luis Molledo, acting as Head of the ‘Regional Fisheries Management Organisations’ unit (MARE.B.2) of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE).

(3) Document available at:

(4) Mr. Mato’s full comment: “La decision de la IOTC del 5 de febrero que impone por votacion, lo que es curiosos porque siempre se suelen hacer por consenso, es una medida que desde luego no tiene precedentes. Yo digo que es absolutamente injusta, desproporcionada, y ademas tambien en cierta parte anti-democratica”.






(10) “Le moins de DCP possible, c’est la voie de la vertu. Mais c’est un suicide économique”.

(11) IOTC data.





(16) Size frequency data available at

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