European Parliament: a vote will oppose supporters of technological hyper-efficiency to defenders of traditional coastal fishing

On the 12 of July, just before the summer break, a crucial vote will be held for the ocean and coastal fishers: the 28 members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries must decide on the banning of an industrial fishing gear in French territorial waters in the Channel: the ‘demersal seine’ (also known as ‘flyshooting’ or ‘Scottish seining’).

The issue of the demersal seine does not only concern France, as it opposes two irreconcilable visions of fishing in Europe. The vote will unveil which project for the future each MEP stands for.

This fishing technique, similar to bottom trawling, was recently developed by the Dutch industry and appeared in the Channel at the end of the 2000s. The ‘demersal seine’ is so devastating for marine ecosystems and fish populations that French fishers who converted their engines to the technique are now at the forefront of those calling for a ban.   

The Dutch industrial fishing sector is once again claiming, as it did for electric fishing, the invention of a “technological fishing” that consumes less fuel and represents a “climate solution.” What they fail to mention is that this mobile gear towed over the seabed is completely non-selective, as well as devastates oceanic biodiversity, the seabed and the climate by re-suspending the carbon stored in sediments.  

In speeches, MEPs are quick to defend “small” fishers or to evoke the need to preserve the “social and economic balance” along Europe’s coastline. This vote will put their declarations to the test and reveal their vision for the future of fishing. Will MEPs turn their backs on the technological race that condemns the ocean to hyper-efficiency, siphoning off every last fish from the seabed and leading to the ruin of territories and fishers, who have operated there from father to son for generations? Or will they assume their links with industrial lobbies and encourage the concentration of the means of capture in the hands of a very small number of large-scale fishing players? On the one hand, coastal fishers operating in ancestral fishing grounds. On the other hand, hyper-mobile and financialised industrial units, preying on the resource until it is exhausted before moving to other waters, in a logic of sequential overexploitation.

For these reasons, several regions in France have preventively banned this gear in their territorial sea. [1] In the absence – and in the waiting – of a general ban on demersal seining throughout the EU, the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries can take an emergency measure on July 12 by adopting the amendment tabled by MEP Caroline Roose. [2] This amendment aims to ban demersal seining in the region that is suffering the full blow of its disastrous consequences: Northern France.

BLOOM collected 13 voting intentions in favour of this amendment of the Greens, co-signed by S&D and GUE MEPs. However, 15 votes are needed to have a majority in the Parliament’s Fisheries Committee. Certain MEPs will play a decisive role. It is the case for Mr. Pierre Karleskind (Renew), as rapporteur for the text, and Chairman of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee. Similarly, if Mrs. Clara Aguilera (S&D) follows her group’s voting instructions, she will be in a position to change the vote’s outcome. The vote could also be won hands down if the very influential Spanish MEPs from the European People’s Party (Mr Francisco Milán Mon and Mr Gabriel Mato) decide for once to defend inshore fishers anchored to their territory from large-scale mobile industrial fishing.

For more information

This amendment relates to Article 5 of the Common Fisheries Policy, which concerns access to the territorial waters of other Member States. [3] Dutch and Belgian fishers have historic rights to fish in these waters provided they use so-called “traditional” fishing gear. However, demersal seining is a so-called “innovative” technique that requires computer assistance. It cannot be considered traditional. The amendment tabled by Caroline Roose makes it possible to preserve the historical rights of traditional gears while excluding demersal seines.

Demersal seining involves deploying a cable on the seabed in an immense polygon covering a 3 km² area in order to catch all the fish trapped inside the walls of sediment created by the cables. [4]

Find everything you need to know about the demersal seine, the new Dutch industry’s ‘technological fishing’ here.

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