Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Channel Bass ban!

"If the European Commission does not reverse its decision, we will go up anyway." The skippers of pelagic trawlers are more than angry against the decision to ban bass fishing from 21 January to 30 April in the Channel, Celtic Sea and the North Sea (The Telegram yesterday). Lower Normandy, Brittany, Loire-Atlantique, Vendée.  They all gathered yesterday morning in La Turballe (44). The ban affects fifty French boats (between 250 and 300 sailors). Half of which are based in Brittany.

This is just one article in the French media last week reporting the EU Commission's planned ban on bass fishing in the English Channel - one of the most hotly contested fisheries in the south and south west where many UK small-scale inshore fishermen rely on bass to give them a wage at certain times of the year. 

Cornish line caught bass
For many years southern English and Cornish handline fishermen (and sports anglers) have argued that visiting pelagic pair trawl boats from France are having a detrimental affect on bass stocks. French trawlers can fish legally to within six miles of the shore.

The story goes on:

While the decision of the European Commission is not yet known about the other professional fishing business at the bar and recreational fishing, pelagic fishermen are saying "Discrimination! If the species is truly in danger, we must prohibit bass fishing for everyone?" criticizes Eric Guygniec. The co-manager of five pelagic trawlers in the company Lorient Apak asks: "Why do you want to divide the trades? In France, it is 80% of the bass on to the market? Are our representatives afraid of the water, or they want to sink fishing." 
Yesterday morning, the fishermen-bosses have decided to represent the European Commission concessions around which all trades were agreed in early January: 40% reduction in effort for pelagic during the first four months; spend a minimum size of 40 cm (instead of 36); limit landings of other trades to 2.5 tonnes a month throughout the year, with an exemption to 3 tons for pure trolling (handlining). "We do not let them," warns Lorient skipper.

"The state and Europe will break the bank"

Olivier Le Nézet refers him "a betrayal and failure of Europe but also from France." Face "an unacceptable decision," President of the Morbihan Brittany and fisheries committees, request "to the state and Europe to break the bank. We expect the measures to accompany the boats. There is no question of bankruptcy fishing companies. "

Story courtesy of Le Telegramme

This is how one TV channel reported the same story last week:

Then, yesterday the news came that the EU Commission has decided to implement a ban from tomorrow (Jan 21st) until the 30th of April.

This story from le Telegramme reports on the reaction of French pelagic fishermen most affected:

Editor's note - this is a translation via Google so the accuracy and some meanings may be distorted in the process - though the gist of the story would seem to reflect the mood fairly accurately.

"Treason," "shameful", "surreal" ... The words are still strong, intact anger after the announcement by the European Commission to ban bass fishing by pelagic trawl in the Channel, from January 21 to 30 April. Fishermen warn they will not allow themselves to do. Back Turballe (Loire-Atlantique), where the skippers involved all the Great West met yesterday morning, Eric Guygniec still can not believe it. "We held a bass committee in early January. We put everyone around the table, everyone has made efforts ... And that's the pelagic that is penalized! ". For the co-manager of the Apak company, five trawlers are affected by this European ban, this decision is simply "discriminatory - If the species is truly in danger, we must ban all commercial fishing business at the bar and recreational fishing. " 5,500 tons on average bar are caught each year in Europe, 70% by professional fishermen, mostly French.

"Sacrificed to interests that are beyond us"
Which raises other questions among the Lorient skipper: "We have a minister, a fisheries department? One may wonder if they actually relayed our proposals. When we see the result is to believe that our representatives be afraid of the water, or they want to sink fishing. " "We have the feeling of being sacrificed to the interests that are beyond us." Maurice Benoish is also shared by "anger and incomprehension. It feels a slogan ... a decision without considering for a second economic and social consequences. There are many constraints on resources, many interactions that go beyond the simple fishing. And we take simple solutions. " To the President of the Sem-Keroman "Europe on its head. She is willing to pay for breaking ships no longer go fishing at the bar ... It's surreal. " What happened with anchovies - the years of prohibition, know-how and a lost skill - still on everyone's mind. Maurice Benoish regret "decision to punch the fishermen has made tremendous restrictions. The Committee had accustomed us to more thought and compromise. " 
"Red Card to Europe and France"
Fifty French vessels are affected by the ban - including eight in Lorient. Around 250 to 300 sailors who are forced to give up the bar campaigns 2015. And a downstream pathway (auction, wholesalers ...) that is penalized. All eyes turn to the government, with the "do not actually have been defended" sensation.

Olivier Le Nézet will even give a "red card in France and Europe." For the Chairman of Committees of Morbihan and Brittany peaches, "the European Commission is unable to handle a crisis." This ban is "a defeat of the common fisheries policy." It requests the State and Europe to "take their responsibilities by taking suitable measures for ships and crews concerned. They will have to break the piggy bank to finance temporary stops. 

"Trawlers will not remain docked"
Because the solutions are few and complex for pelagic trawlers. "To fall back on other species such as hake or sea bream? This will create other problems, equipment, market clearing, "Olivier Le Nézet storm. However, it could be that the trawlers do not remain in port. "We represented the European Commission our proposals," says Eric Guygniec. "If she does not reverse its decision before January 21, we will go up still fish for bass in the Channel." Fishermen are determined "not to let them. Because if there is truly endangered species for which no action is taken, it's us! ".

Thanks to a few contacts in France here is some background information that might help give a better picture of how and why the pelagic boats feel the way they do:

  • trawl bass is mainly targeted by pelagic trawl, used in pair trawling. Which means you can clearly see on AIS pairs of trawlers working together : same direction, little distance (less than half mile), same speed - this was referencing AIS images that appeared on some social media pages suggesting that bass pair teams were working off the south coast a few weeks ago)
  • the fishing effort of the pair pelagic trawling has shifted from the Bay of Biscay to the Channel since 5 years ago
  • the pelagic trawling is seasonal and Bass is a complementary species from the anchovy.
  • the French pelagic fleet has decreased by two thirds following the previous anchovy ban. In that fleet, there were problems in France, but most of the "bad guys" have gone out of the business with the scrapping plan.
  • in the western Channel, there are now 2 or 3 permanent pairs, (Cherbourg, Roscoff).
  • there are bottom trawlers which can seasonally turns into pair pelagic trawlers, normally to catch Tuna (Albacore) or anchovies or mackerel.
  • there are also some bottom trawlers which stay bottom tawling and try to do a few trips on Bass, but it is not quite as efficient - the best for trawling bass is using a pelagic trawl
  • fishing for bass is allowed - there is no regulation except what is done in the 12 miles coastal limit (licenced by fishing gear managed by French fishing committees (Committes de Peche have existed in France since the 1950s). For over 12 miles, there is also a professional regulation not made by Europe but made by professionals within the PO where they have a maximum amount of catches by week/fishing trip.
There are wider issues in France that may have a more than familiar ringto them - for instance:

  • The industry has been quite divided for long on this subject - pelagic trawlers used to be a source of strong arguing in the past, especially in connection with the anchovy fishery, the small anglers, and the fact they bring too much bass on the auction at the same time which made drop the bass prices for everybody. Now, the problem has decreased in some part because the fleet decreased. Bass trawling went from around 50 ships to less than 16. BUT at the same time the resource decreased, so the problem may still remains.
  • In France around 50% of the fishing pressure is made by leisure fishing (anglers) which has no quotas no limits and only size regulation and few regulations about seasonal fishing but not applied by every leisure fishermens' organisations. Some of these anglers are very keen on improving the management of the leisuring fishing activity in quantity of catch.
  • The French national organisation of fishermen requested last year the implementation of fishing quotas at the European level to better manage the activity, but surprisingly Maria Damanaki refused.
  • Some of the smallest fishermen in France fear the implementation of the quota system on bass They fear they have to decrease their activity in the same proportion as for the trawlers. But if a quota is settled, the French POs will have the responsibility to insure that the repartition between big and small boats is fair. The smallest boats, especially those who are not inside a PO, fear this.
  • The UK gov tries to implement a regulation, which is a good point because Damanaki refused. Which is also a strategic way of being a fisherman friend when you have little interest in your national fishery! - Maybe this Minister forgot that he gave a very small support last year to the French proposition to implement an European management. Short memory? Apart from this political issues, this fishery must implement an European management based on a fair co-management between fishermen and without throwing stones through Newspaper. This (bass) resource needs a strong co-management, implemented ASAP, including small and big boats, industry and leisuring.