Saturday, 2 March 2019

Brexit without agreement - from Boulogne and Dutch fishermen, merchants and families.

The idea of ​​a "hard" Brexit, without an agreement being reached between the British and the Europeans, is becoming a little more credible every day. In the largest French fishing port in Boulogne-sur-Mer, the fish industry is anticipated by many..

It is 1 am, the city is quiet but the port is active. Trawlers return from fishing and unload their goods, Loubet basin in Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais). "We land fishing 48 hours, in forty minutes we left," says Nicolas Margollé, owner of the trawler Nicolas and Jérémy. Stacks of crates of fish are carried by a crane, from the boat 24 meters to the dock. It's a race against the clock, everyone performs his task accurately and efficiently in the unloading.

The pace is formidable: Nicolas and the six other men aboard have slept ten hours in 48 hours. Their fishing area? Between Great Britain and France, everything depends on the season and schools of fish. "At the moment, I am mainly targeting squid and a little whiting, this is the period." The fisherman makes 65% of his turnover in the British zone. But tomorrow, this whole organisation could collapse like a house of cards.

Fishermen "in complete helplessness"

If no agreement is reached on March 29th, the official date of the beginning of Brexit (and if this date is not postponed ), the British will be able to ban their territorial waters to foreigners. Result: a considerable loss of playing field for the French on the one hand. On the other hand, the Belgians and Dutch will also fall back on the French waters full of fish. Result: a large concentration of fishermen in a small area. "This would cause problems of cohabitation, resources and everything that goes with it," says the professional. It's like having a smaller cake to share among more people.

We hope that there will be an agreement, deep within ourselves.

So Nicolas Margollé is not in the half-measure: "It will be death," he asserts. "The death of a die, whether at sea or on land, the death of a coastline is a disaster." He also bemoans a crying lack of information: "There is nothing that filters, we know nothing, for the moment we are in complete helplessness." Does he feel defended by the politicians? "No, no, when you ask for news, they know nothing, or you have to wait for the English to answer."

At sea or on land, same fight

It's not just fishermen who are worried. "We are in a complete artistic vagueness, we do not know where we are going," said Marc Salmon, the boss of Whitelinks Seafood, a fish processing company. In the area of ​​the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, in Capécure, he works the product of the local fishery, but also imports fish from abroad, particularly from the United Kingdom (the British export 75% of their catch). In his workshop, the monkfish, squid, coley, hake, halibut, rockfish turn into beautiful fillets at an impressive speed, thanks to the hands of a dozen men.

Boulogne-sur-Mer is a stronghold in the sector, if 32,000 tonnes of fish are landed each year, between 350,000 and 400,000 tonnes are processed here, much of which actually arrives by truck. A Brexit without agreement would result in a return of customs duties. But what Marc especially dreads is the sanitary and veterinary controls that could revive the day. Who says additional checks means extra time.

The risk, in case of Brexit without agreement, is that some controls a hit hard, we lose time and time is something that we do not have today.

An unbearable backlash for the boss: "All operators in the industry have been working for decades to improve this logistics, which allows us today to be able to deliver a product landed in Scotland for example, in less than 48 years. hours everywhere in France, even in the north of Spain and Italy. " If the inspections multiply, "it would force us to be less efficient in terms of delivery, to take one more day to deliver the goods, which goes against our daily work, that is to say say quality. "

To try to organise this at best, a Sivep (veterinary and phytosanitary inspection service at the borders) was obtained by local elected officials, including the mayor of Boulogne, in the port area, so that the trucks can establish their formalities on the spot.

"The fact that we are returning to a situation that predates Britain's entry into the European Union, ie the pooling of the sea for fishing activities is a foolish risk. " , said Frédéric Cuvillier, also socialist president of the Agglomeration Community of Boulonnais, who also was in charge of fishing under the presidency of François Hollande, between 2012 and 2014.

The issue of this Brexit is obviously a major issue for the region, the port of Boulogne employs 5,000 people, all sectors mixed (fishing, processing, logistics). "I'm not optimistic, especially since we are used to the British fog, but for this issue, this fog is particularly dense and it raises questions."

Courtesy of a story from France TV - translated by Google.

Similar concerns are being expressed throughout social media throughout EU fishing communities that rely on the freedom to fish in UK waters. Here is the view of a Dutch fishing family and their two seiner/trawlers.

Living between hope and fear:

Anne Marie van Seters (51, Stellendam) and Anita Poel (48, Den Helder) arrange 'everything' for fishermen at sea. Van Seters for relatives and other crew on the SL-27 and the SL-28. Anita Poel provides the administration at the local fishery cooperative (CIV). Her three brothers, husband and son sail on the BRA-5 and BRA-7. How do they experience the uncertainties in fishing?

The SL-27 Johannes fishes in the winter with the flyshoot method on squid, red mullet and mullet. Fishing area is the English Channel, right under England in British water. "Will it remain so, or will we be banned later, now that a no-deal Brexit is lurking", asks Anne Marie Van Seters. As a fisherman, Van Seters does all the bookwork full-time. At least forty hours a week she is busy with the administration, banking, management functions, crew affairs, communication with the fish auction and suppliers. She also cleans the vessels with two other women when they are back in the harbour. "In fact, I am available for the company 24 hours a day, seven days a week."


In Den Helder, Anita Poel is also busy with fishing affairs on a daily basis. As an administrative force at the local fishery cooperative, she is well aware of the threats that fishermen face. When her family members are at home, everything comes unfiltered. "There have been a lot of tensions in the sector lately. 'What will happen next, what about our income and what remains of fishing space', are questions that regularly concern us. Our young son has already obtained his fishing papers and is already sailing, but will it stay that way and will there be a future for him? "


But there is always more fear. Fear that it is not at all bad and that it might turn out worse; that the golden times that many fishermen experienced for a short time thanks to excellent fish stocks, low fishing pressure and manageable expenses, is coming to an end. That it never really gets better again. And then? Van Seters: "There was always some commotion in the fishing industry. Fishing threats are always there, but it is now extreme. "Van Seters also likes to look beyond the family interests. "The world population is increasing, we must be able to continue to eat healthy. Fishermen provide the healthiest food imaginable for millions of people. If it continues this way in the fishing industry, will that soon be over? You can hardly believe it anyway, the way in which politicians now deal with food producers. " 

Positive attitude

Fishermen are naturally flexible and positive, says Van Seters, who grew up with the fishery. Normally, that attitude is obvious, but I do not know whether that institution will stand the test of time. "Anita Poel:" Once a week we meet in Den Helder with all the local fishermen. Then you hear and feel that the worries increase with the week. Fishermen who fish with the pulse are occasionally the saddest. Now, thanks to the energy-efficient fishing method, half less gas oil per fishing trip is used. If pulses will soon no longer be allowed in Europe, and we have to switch to the beam trawl, the costs will increase enormously and perhaps no longer catch up. The least setback can then be fatal. My husband and brothers are fishing for the smaller Eurokotters. They are vulnerable in strong winds. When the wind blows more than wind force seven, they prefer to stay in the harbour for safety reasons and leave a few days later when the wind is gone. Then there is no income and we are extra vulnerable if the expenses continue to rise."

Lay awake

How does family business Van Seters respond to uncertainties? "By fitting extra well at the store now. We have the advantage that we do not use the pulse technique, but Brexit, wind farms at sea and marine reserves also affect us, and who says that our fishing method will not come under fire in the long term. You can now expect almost everything. Pulse fishermen, who care for the income of 500 families, have to return to the trawl method. You hear noises that even that beam trawl will endure a lot of time. The pulsers that have to switch are already awake. Keeping well on the store is therefore what we as flyshooters can do to keep a view of the future. So we look to set bigger investments, and we save a bit more than usual. Then hopefully there will soon be enough room to possibly make a necessary turn without the approval of a bank. "