The perverse links between offshore wind farms and the trawl lobby

A groundbreaking investigation into how the trawling lobby reaps the benefits of offshore wind and sacrifices artisanal fishing.

Against the backdrop of a national consultation of critical importance for the future of the ocean, BLOOM reveals in a new investigation how the development of offshore wind farms is being driven by the trawl lobby against the general interest. While the poor social, economic and ecological performance of trawling argues in favor of abandoning this destructive, energy-hungry and loss-making fishing technique, the trawl lobby has managed to amend the French General Tax Code in order to get its hands on offshore wind farm revenues and perpetuate this fishing method, which wreaks havoc with marine ecosystems, the climate, jobs and public finances [1]. The fisheries committees get 35% of the wind tax when the wind farm is installed within 12 nautical miles (around 22 km), which encourages the fishing lobby to push for the installation of wind farms close to the coast, despite the general consensus.

The case of the Belle-Île-en-Mer floating wind farm provides a good illustration of how this perverse system works: trawling advocates have hijacked the democratic process to preserve their interests by forcing the installation of the farm close to the coast in order to cash in on the wind tax, sacrificing artisanal fishing work zones and vulnerable ecosystems, including remarkable cold-water corals, in the process.

Read our study ‘Gold with the Wind’

Off the coast of Belle-Île-en-Mer, the French government is planning the development of a 750 MW wind farm. Designed to meet the electricity needs of 450,000 inhabitants by 2030, this offshore wind farm has one special feature: it will be the first floating wind farm in France [2].

The trawl lobby at the helm

At the end of a six-month public debate, which required a budget of one million euros to gather the opinions of thousands of citizens, local authorities, economic players and wind turbine manufacturers, a consensus emerged in favor of locating the “Sud Bretagne” wind farm offshore, i.e. beyond the 12 nautical mile line (around 22 kilometers).

However, in defiance of this consensus based on environmental, technical and landscape criteria, the government announced in 2022 that the wind farm would be located entirely within the 12 nautical mile territorial waters, in a zone frequented almost exclusively by artisanal fishers, thus satisfying almost word for word the isolated demands made throughout the public debate by the trawl lobby, embodied by the Regional Committeee for Maritime Fishing and Aquaculture in Britanny (French: Comité régional des pêches maritimes et des élevages marins de Bretagne (CRPMEM)) [3] and the city of Lorient, who for decades have tirelessly defended high-impact industrial or semi-industrial fishing methods such as bottom trawling and related “dragging” gear to all decision-making bodies, without defending the rest of French fishers, particularly small-scale fishers using low-impact gear (so-called “passive” gear).

At the heart of this democratic denial lies an offshore wind farm planning policy that is subject to the diktats of the trawl fishing lobby, allowing it to continue enriching itself with large sums of public money without worrying about having to develop this destructive fishing method, which generates losses for society far beyond its mere environmental impacts [4]. This failure to intelligently reconcile the development of offshore wind farms with the protection of biodiversity can be explained by a dual dynamic:

  • A de facto right of veto granted to representatives of the fishing industry in the democratic decision-making process concerning the location of the future wind farm off Belle-Île-en-Mer.
  •  A wind tax which, according to the French President, should enable the fishing industry to collect no less than 700 million euros over the next few years [5], without any strict criteria for the allocation of this financial windfall being established to initiate the industry’s transition to fishing methods that respect the seabed and biodiversity, for minimum environmental impact and maximum social gain.


While industrial fishing is the leading cause of ocean destruction according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity (IPBES), the hold of industry representatives defending high-impact fisheries is such that it manages to short-circuit democratic decisions, to the detriment of artisanal fishing, public finances and marine ecosystems. In the end, the trawler industry, aided by the government, succeeded in placing the park’s route on the fishing grounds of low-impact artisanal fishers: rocky areas that are home to a remarkable diversity of species, and which until now have been untouched by trawlers and the damage they cause. However, these seabeds are home to particularly fragile species such as the yellow coral (Dendrophyllia cornigera), which features on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species and, due to its rarity in the Atlantic, is classified as a ZNIEFF (Natural area of ecological, faunal and florisitc interest, French: Zone naturelle d’intérêt écologique floristique et faunistique) determining species by the Regional Scientific Council of Natural Heritage in Britanny (French: Conseil scientifique régional du patrimoine naturel de Bretagne) [6]. Protected for decades from destruction, it is now the representatives of the trawler fishing industry who could cause their downfall by designating this preserved area as the site for a wind farm, and in return granting themselves an inexhaustible financial windfall which they alone will decide how to use.

The wind tax: the real golden goose for industrial fishing

For the Belle-Île-en-Mer wind farm alone, more than one and a half million euros will be distributed each year between the French National Committee for Maritime Fisheries, the Brittany Fisheries Committee and the Departmental Committee for Fisheries in Morbihan, thanks to this installation in French territorial waters [7]. Olivier Le Nézet, President of all three committees and the kingpin of the French industrial fishing lobby, with 24 mandates to his name [8], could not let this windfall pass him by, congratulating himself on the fact that “the area selected is the area proposed by the Regional Fisheries Committee”. He added, forgetting in passing all the artisanal fishers operating in this zone, that “this is the zone of least constraint identified by the committee with the professional fishers. These are rocky seabeds, where trawling is not practiced (except for the four-panel trawl)” [9].

A million and a half euros has been made freely available to the fisheries committees, even though the board of the Comité National is made up of members such as the French Fishing Ship-Owners’ Union (French: Union des Armateurs à la Pêche de France (UAPF)), whose mandate is to “fight the environmental lobbies “ [10], despite the ever-increasing ecological and social urgency of the situation. With the distribution of this tax, the government is offering a lifeline to industrial fishing, dominated by trawling, even though this practice is condemned due to its unacceptable ecological and climatic impacts, and its dependence on diesel, which puts trawling fishing companies in chronic deficit, despite the substantial public aid received.

As a result of this maneuver, the trawler fishing lobby has pulled off a genuine democratic and financial robbery in Belle-Île-en-Mer, making artisanal fishing and the preservation of biodiversity the collateral victims of its refusal to change its model and embark on the transition.

To put an end to this regime of exception benefiting the destroyers of ecosystems and the climate, BLOOM calls for a review of the wind tax and warns of the stranglehold industrial fishing lobbies have on democratic processes to ensure that the conclusions of the current and future public debates do not suffer the same fate. At the same time, we are calling for full transparency on the use of funds from the wind tax by the fishing industry, and are sending the French National Committee for Maritime Fishing and Aquaculture an environmental information request to lift the veil on the list and selection criteria for projects “contributing to the sustainable development of fishing and livestock farming” that the national, regional and departmental committees intend to develop using this tax.


[1] Read our report ‘Time for a U-Turn’ on the assessment of the French fishing fleet.

[2] Excluding the smaller-scale pilot projects under development off Le Croisic and in the Mediterranean.  Ministère de la transition écologique et des territoires (2023) Eolien en mer.

[3] At the head of the Comité régional de Bretagne, its president Olivier le Nézet continues to be singled out for defending the interests of industrial fishing, dominated by trawling, against all odds, to the detriment of artisanal fishing. Tired of this contempt for their profession, artisanal fishers formed the Angry Fishers movement in 2023, which demands, among other things, “the dissolution of the Comité National des Pêches” and the resignation of its president, Olivier Le Nézet, who “through his intolerable accumulation of mandates is no longer credible in the eyes of the profession”. Mediapart (2024) Olivier Le Nézet, “pêcheur de petits-fours” à la barre du lobby français de la pêche.

[4] The result of a collaboration between BLOOM, L’Institut Agro, AgroParisTech, The Shift Project, EHESS and Atelier des jours à venir, the ‘Time for a U-Turn’ report published in January 2024 offers an unprecedented multi-criteria assessment of 70% of French fisheries. This assessment of the social-ecological performance of fisheries clearly shows the limits of industrial fishing, dominated by trawling, and the potential represented by artisanal fishing in terms of the social-ecological transition of fisheries. It represents a first step towards the development of a “ecofishery”, i.e. a fishery that minimizes impacts on the climate and living organisms whilecontributing to European food sovereignty, maximizing employment and offering dignified socio-economic and human prospects.

[5] BLOOM (2023) A French President should not stoop so low

[6] Observatoire de l’environnement en Bretagne (2021) Les espèces et les habitats déterminants pour les ZNIEFF en Bretagne

[7] Morbihan is a key département for the French industrial fishing industry, particularly with the presence of Lorient, France’s leading fishing port by value, where many industrial trawlers (e.g. Scapêche, SCAPAK, APAK, etc.) are registered.

[8] One of Olivier Le Nézet’s mandates concerns the Open-C Foundation, France’s offshore testing center for renewable energies. Mediapart (2024) Olivier Le Nézet, « pêcheur de petits-fours » à la barre du lobby français de la pêche

[9] Ouest France (2021) Bretagne. L’État donne son feu vert au parc éolien flottant entre Belle-Île et Groix

[10] In January 2024, UAPF changed the description of its home page, replacing “Fight against environmental lobbying” with “Defend good environmental practices” in its commitments. UAPF (2024) A propos de l’UAPF.

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