Sunday, 21 October 2018

Breton fishermen fear the worst - Brexit

The Brexit deadline is approaching and the fishermen are still in the fog. This Saturday, in Quimper, the meeting of the fishing and aquaculture sector in Brittany was an opportunity to recall the major risks expected next year for Breton fleets deprived of access to British waters.

"A hard Brexit is looming. How to anticipate it, what consequences? ". The first dossier debated this Saturday at the BreizhMer conference by the fishing and aquaculture sector in Brittany did not allow to know more about the negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom. On the other hand, the consequences of the recovery of their exclusive economic maritime zone by the British, which could be catastrophic for the Breton fishing industry, were illustrated. It is no coincidence that 92% of anglers across the Channel voted for Brexit (according to academic Mark Wise, quoted on Sunday by France Inter). They consider that the interests of British fishermen were originally sold to facilitate entry into the European Union.

"A vital issue"

It is Jacques Pichon, director of the armament La Houle de Saint-Guénolé (120 employees), which was the most concrete. "50% of the activity of our eleven offshore trawlers is in British waters. In Saint-Guénolé, we are the last armament present, we make live the activities of landing, mareyage, mechanical workshops. The stakes are therefore vital. If there is a failure of negotiations, the first thing we will do to save our business will be to postpone it to other fishing areas. Then there will be the problem of allocation of fishing rights. There will be boat stops, a drop in the supply by auction, job losses "(*).


The worst, a "hard" Brexit, is not yet sure. Philippe de Lambert des Granges, Brexit project director at the Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, emphasized that we were heading towards a "negotiated Brexit" before the deadline of 30 March 2019.

This would mean that a "withdrawal agreement" from the UK would be worked on for a transitional period of two years until 2021, when a treaty of relationship between the two entities would be signed. Currently, this "negotiated Brexit" is still bogging down on the issue of Northern Ireland.

Shellfish growers too

"At the Breton level, there were 170 boats that at least fished a kilo of fish in British waters," said Philippe de Lambert des Granges. At the national level, they are 520. Of the seven European Union countries concerned by British waters, this activity represents nearly one billion turnover. A closure of these waters would therefore have a very important economic impact with less input (26,000 tonnes at stake estimated at the French level), less trading, trading and ultimately employment ". And not only for the fishing industry. "We have a lot of exchanges with Northern Ireland and Scotland, mainly on oysters," said Philippe Le Gal, chairman of the regional committee for shellfish farming in southern Brittany.

Loser in all cases

The challenge is to limit the damage for the Breton sectors. "Even with a negotiated Brexit, there will be a renegotiation of European quotas, says Jacques Pichon. This will involve new losses for French fishermen, while there is already a shortage of some stocks. This loss of quota will also affect the inshore fishery.

The coming years are therefore very dangerous for the Breton fishermen. No wonder the Bigouden Ambroise Guellec, former secretary of state for the sea under Jacques Chirac from 1986 to 1988, one of the great witnesses invited, wondered about the real political consideration in France of the dangers of Brexit for fishing.

(*) It is estimated that 120 Breton boats, which frequent the waters of the south of England and around Wales, will be impacted by the Brexit (90 deep-sea and about thirty coastal). That's about 50,000 tonnes of fish, which is one-third of the tonnage at auction.

Full story courtesy of Le Telegramme: