Friday, 18 March 2022

How many more #FishyFridays if fuel rockets in price?

In Lorient, with the fishermen on strike: "If we close it now, the profession will die"

Overwhelmed by the soaring price of "fishing diesel", shipowners have stopped Breton boats from Keroman, the country's second largest fishing port.

Usually, at this time, the boats are offshore. Wednesday morning, they are almost all moored along the quays of the port of Keroman in Lorient (Morbihan). The first fishing port in Brittany, second in the country, is almost at a standstill. La P'tite Mila explains why on a banner painted red, stretched on her deck: "Sailor ashore, diesel too expensive!!!"Another ship sports a hangman in yellow oilskin. Over the past ten days, most shipowners have paused their activity, overwhelmed by the soaring price of "fishing diesel", tax-free professional fuel: 1.05 euros per liter on average Wednesday, according to the Amarree observatory. That is almost twice as much as in December when it stood at 0.58 euro. The hundred boats that make up the Lorient fleet are very affected: still very artisanal, it is largely made up of trawlers-langoustine boats, large consumers of fuel, because of the nets to be towed. Especially since "here, the fishing areas are quite remote", also underlines Olivier Le Nézet, president of the regional fisheries committee.

Mobilized since Monday, Lorient fishermen participated in the blocking of the city's oil depot, which began on Tuesday, with transport, public works and agricultural work companies. Then the sailors temporarily hampered all activities at the port of Keroman in the hope of weighing on the measures of the resilience plan. Wednesday morning, they were still about twenty sailors, gathered around a big fire of tires lit in front of the premises of the fishmongers, after having spent the night there. Will the aid of 0.35 euro per liter of diesel announced in the afternoon by Jean Castex appease the fishermen? 

In Lorient, a meeting was scheduled for the end of the day to decide on the follow-up to the movement. "It seems to fit,"reacts hot Philippe Lannezval, of the Group of artisanal fishermen from Lorient, who regrets: “We have been sounding the alarm for a month, without response. We had to go back to the good old blocking methods to speed things up."

Lorient, March 16, 2022. Morbihan. Blocking of the fishing port of Lorient by fishermen following the rise in the price of diesel. (Fabrice Picard / Seen for Liberation) "Might as well go to the fishmeal factory"

“It is no longer profitable to go to sea: as we are paid by the share, at the moment, we are losing a third of our salary”, underlines Michel Morel, fishing boss of Bélier, a trawler-langoustinier who consumes 1,500 liters of fuel per day. “In the evening, we sell our catch at auction and, from the total revenue, we deduct the price of diesel. Then we share what remains between the shipowner and the crew,” explains Léon Le Bars, a 21-year-old sailor. 

Recently, he has seen his salary cut in half. His small trawler, the Marenjo , has been docked since Thursday. "We go slower to consume less, but we can't go less far, we go where there is fishing," says Alan Nicot, his young superior.It's like going to work at 30 km/h. We have to leave earlier in the morning and come back later in the evening. If it's to work 100 hours a week and earn the minimum wage, you might as well go to the factory! The small crew therefore mobilized. “If we close it now, the profession will die. It's fragile, fishing”, says Léon, who “does not want aid: we are asking for the return to normal for the price of diesel, it is our only demand”.

“If nothing is done, there are some who will not recover,” warns Florent Le Bolay, boss of Men Gwen. Exhausted by a four-hour night aboard his lobster-trawler, the shipowner said he was “tired of all that, worn out and not far from being resigned”. " We feel abandoned, " he said. These are only measures that have been announced, for the moment. Millions are sent everywhere and we, the fishermen, are always the last. However, we make the local economy work: for one on board, five people work ashore.” For him, the conflict in Ukraine “has a good back for speculating on oil prices. The problem is that there, the price of a barrel of Brent goes down, but not that of diesel at the pump”.

“The government knew how to listen” "We are told that it is Ukraine, but it is not just that, there is also speculation", abounds Laurent Tréguier, owner of the Côte d'Ambre, who hires five sailors. He would like “a solution to smooth the price of diesel. We've been asking for it for a long time." Impossible, in addition, to pass on the increase in its charges to the consumer: “It is the buyer who sets the price, according to the market trend,” he explains. For Olivier Le Nézet, of the fisheries committee, with the help of 0.35 euros, “the government knew how to listen. The sector must in the future organize itself to absorb this type of shock, which cannot be borne by the fishermen alone”.

Full story couretsy of Le Telegramme, France.