8/12/01 10:43 PM
French take up armes
09.08.2001 07:01 France - CFP
French coastal fleet 'call to arms'
France's coastal, small-catch, fleet have decided to join forces to discuss coastal issues and so contribute to the European Union's CFP (Common Fisheries Policy).
They intend submit a report to the EU fisheries commission at the end of August this year.
Representatives of associations of independent fishermen from the Nomandy, Brittany and VendÃ©e seaboard are leading an initiative to "get their voices heard" by the EU Commission, according to reports in Le Marin, French maritime newspaper.
France's "small" fleet [defined as boats fishing in coastal areas, out for no longer than 24h at a time, more often than not measuring under 12m long] make up 80% of the national fleet and account for half of the workforce, for the main part they are independent fishermen working alone. The issues the association is addressing in its debates this summer are outlined below.
The small coastal sector of the French fleet has halved in number over the past 20 years; two reasons can explain the decline : firstly boats under 16m were excluded from subsidies regimes in the 80's whereas larger boats, 16m to 25m, were getting up to half of their investments paid for. Secondly, CFP capacity reduction schemes favoured the destruction of smaller boats whereas "smaller boats can hardly be to blame for the current fish stocks crisis" states the newspaper. The EU will be urged, by the association, to include the "small" sector when drawing up policies in the future.
Being encouraged to improve productivity by adopting new technologies (such as for lobster, scallops and clams) has, paradoxically, often pulled professionals into an investment/debt spiral, forcing them to fish more and more, to the detriment of remaining stocks.
Dependant on a small number of species
As the sector is dependant on a relatively small number of species, the relative good health of those species is vital. The association will discuss the need to call for a scheme to manage stocks and share out quotas as fairly as possible.
One specific problem the association hopes to address is that important coastal species, mainly sea bass and sea bream, are caught by larger boats using pelagic methods during the reproductive period, January to April, when the fish tend to group together making them vulnerable to over-trawling. Even though sea bass fishing is limited to 5 tonnes per week per boat, the number of boats is not limited.
The association will also talk about liasing systematically with other groups laying claim to coastal areas : the tourist industry, aquaculture, wind turbine parks, sand and gravel extraction, marine parks and protected environments.
Reserve coast for line fishermen
Finally, the majority of coastal independent fishermen, who for the most part used to work on deep sea trawlers, declare they do the job because "they want to see a long term balanced eco-system, they refuse an extravagant production, they want to carry out a traditional activity and want to sell a product which satisfies fundamental consumer demands".
Thus, often smaller line-fishing coastal units are seen to be more selective, able to reject under-sized fish quickly whilst still alive. In consequence some regional fishing committees have started thinking about reserving the coastal band for them (under 12m long), to put an end to larger boats using pelagic methods hogging the coast and pushing smaller boats out to sea to fish.