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Deep sea fisheries: the truth about French fisheries is revealed

Video guest: Josephine Mwangi

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Friday, 25 July 2014

Deep sea fisheries: the truth about French fisheries is revealed

France’s position on the reform of European deep-sea fishing regulations is even less justifiable in the light of this new information.

On 2 July 2014, the French Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer) released data on the activities of French deep-sea bottom trawlers that non-government organizations (NGOs) have been demanding since national multi-stakeholder negotiations took place in 2009. With the launch of the reform of the European deep-sea fishing regulation in July 2012, this data became essential to inform the public debate on the implications of the phase-out of deep-sea bottom trawling proposed by the European Commission.

For five years NGOs have requested the exact number of bottom trawlers working beyond certain depths and information about the exact composition of the deep-sea bottom trawl catch. For five years the French government and the administration have refused civil society any kind of cooperation and provide no transparency at all. Finally though,Ségolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, has stepped in and put an end to the reign of opacity by ordering the administration to make the data available. In so doing, Mrs Royal allowed important revelations to occur. NGOs were in for a big surprise…

The document confirms what the NGO community suspected: the government and the administration have hidden the reality by claiming that the number of vessels affected by the regulation would be "extremely important". The Ifremer report concludes instead that "the number of bottom trawlers with an activity in deep water is low." Indeed, the document mentions that in 2012 only 12 French bottom trawlers fished at depths greater than 600 metres more than 10% of their time, and only 10 of them fished beyond 800 metres. Even taking a threshold of 10 hours of operation annually (i.e. just one day of fishing per year), the number of bottom trawlers fishing beyond 800 metres depth was only 26.

Moreover, French retailer Intermarché announced in January 2014 that its six specialized deepwater trawlers would no longer drag their nets beyond 800 metres depth from early 2015. Their commitment extends to the three deep-sea bottom trawlers acquired in June 2014 from the industrial fleet “Dhellemmes”. This means that if the ban on deep-sea bottom trawling was implemented today at a threshold of 800 metres, only one French ship would be affected by the regulation.

Source: oceana.org