The giant trawler: industrial fishing’s lifeline is causing job blackmail

BLOOM mobilized and organized a demonstration on 15 February, publicly denouncing the exploitation of the world’s largest pelagic trawler operated by the Compagnie des pêches de Saint-Malo to manufacture surimi. With the support of Pleine Mer, numerous organizations in Brittany (Mor Glaz, FNE Bretagne, Bretagne vivante, Eau et rivières and Al Lark), the CGT des marins du Grand Ouest and elected representatives from various political groups, over 200 people gathered in the port of Saint-Malo to rally against this fishing model. [1] While this mobilization is bearing fruit, the lobbies are using job blackmail to reverse the situation. Here’s how:

The Compagnie des pêches de Saint-Malo has invested 15 million euros, with the blessing of the French authorities, to operate the Annelies Ilena – replacing the Joseph Roty II (another 90m behemoth) – and transfer its surimi-base manufacturing plant there.

Operating in European waters as well as off the coasts of West Africa, Chile and Peru, the Polish-registered Annelies Ilena is owned by Atlantex, a Polish subsidiary of Dutch multinational Parlevliet & Van der Plas (P&P). Nicknamed the “Ship from Hell” in Mauritania, this 145-meter-long monster catches 400,000 kg of fish every day.


A few days earlier, on 7 February, BLOOM sent a letter to the French Minister for the Ecological Transition to demand accountability and full transparency on this transaction, particularly with regard to fishing quotas. Indeed, Poland has no quotas for blue whiting, the species used to make surimi. To enable the Compagnie des pêches de Saint-Malo to operate the Annelies Ilena, France plans to cede its blue whiting quota to Poland. While quota exchanges between Member States are authorized, a transfer without compensation is breach of European law. This quota transaction could violate a fundamental principle of the Common Fisheries Policy: the principle of relative stability, which guarantees a stable distribution of quotas according to Member States’ historical catches [2].

BLOOM’s letter seeking clarification as to the measures taken to ensure that this operation complies with the law in force has still not received any reply, which only accentuates our doubts about the legality of this operation. On the other hand, the Ministry is said to have suspended this quota transfer, but no official information has been published.

BLOOM sent a second letter on Friday 22 March asking for further clarification.


For the around the past ten days, Florian Soisson, CEO of Compagnie des pêches de Saint-Malo, has been hammering home in the media that saving jobs at the plant and for the sailors depends on “transferring” the French quota to Poland. In particular, he has put his 36 sailors on partial unemployment.

In reality, it is this investment in a Polish vessel that is condemning jobs at sea and probably on land.In a statement made at the end of December, the Compagnie des pêches de St-Malo indicated that the Joseph Roty II had completed its last trip. This means that the sailors are left without a working vessel. It is important to point out that the Compagnie des pêches de Saint-Malo has not become the owner of the Annelies Ilena. The vessel remains the property of the Dutch company P&P and will continue to sail under the Polish flag: Polish law therefore applies, regardless of the nationality of the sailors on board.

As a result, neither Compagnie des pêches de Saint-Malo, P&P nor Atlantex can guarantee the continuity of employment contracts should French seamen be transferred to the Polish-flagged vessel. It would be up to the Polish company Atlantex to re-employ them under Polish contracts, subject to different conditions and a different regime. Above all, the Annelies Ilena already has its own crew, making it highly unlikely that all the jobs of the Joseph Roty II’s sailors would be preserved.

If P&P had really wanted to maintain Saint-Malo as a significant part of its business, it could have replaced the Joseph Roty II with a French-flagged vessel. In such a context, it makes no economic sense for the Dutch group to continue using the current Saint-Malo plant when its vessel Annelies Ilena will never be able to come directly to land the fish that would be processed there. Consequently, the operation of the Annelies Ilena and the “transfer” of quota to Poland are rather a sign of the shipping group’s gradual disengagement from France.

Last but not least, a pelagic trawler creates 10 times fewer jobs than a small-scale fishing vessel! Rationally speaking, France has every interest in dismantling factory ships and transitioning the sector towards low-impact, low-CO2 practices that create jobs.


[1] This mobilization also gave rise to several statements against the vessel in the media. On France Inter, Loïg Chesnais-Girard, President of the region of Brittany, declared: “This enormous vessel (…) is not in keeping with the fishing style in Brittany that I defend (…) We are associating this boat with Brittany, we are sullying Brittany.

[2] This question of quotas was also at the heart of the debate on the fisheries roadmap voted on 16 February 2024 by the Regional Council of Brittany. Vice-president Daniel Cueff declared: “How are quotas distributed? How can we see that quotas are accumulated on a single vessel to be able to fish, since the boat will only be authorized to fish if it actually has quotas. This is a position we need to work on with the European Commission. We cannot support this position today. On the other hand, the catastrophic fishing methods of this boat are obviously not the fishing conditions we defend (…).

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