Friday, 15 March 2019

#FishyFriday from France - Brexit: French fishermen worry about exit without agreement

It doesn't take much to loosely translate what these Breton fishermen are telling the reporter!

Two weeks before Brexit, London and Brussels have not yet reached an agreement. In Brittany, fishermen are worried about their future. Without agreement, the British waters will indeed be inaccessible from March 29, 2019 at midnight. 

In all, 120 ships are involved. A hard Brexit may impact the entire industry. This subject was broadcast in the 13h newscast of 14/03/2019 presented by Jean-Pierre Pernaut on TF1.

Other similar reports from fishing regions along the Channel:

Brexit. In Boulogne-sur-Mer, fishermen in turmoil dread "a catastrophe

Tired, under clouds of greedy seagulls, Boulonnais trawlers return to the port, loaded with soles, mullet or cod. But "strongly dependent" rich British waters and "in the fog" three weeks of Brexit, many fear "a disaster."

"In case of Brexit hard and without agreement, the sea will be brutally divided in two: English fishermen on one side, all Europeans on the other!" Stephane Pinto, a representative of these net fishermen of Boulogne-sur-Mer ( Pas-de-Calais ), reflects the general feeling: three weeks Brexit the fishermen Boulogne feel "in a fog " and many fear a "disaster" .

From the top of the wind-swept wharf, Stéphane Pinto points to the north-west the wide and invisible maritime border located at about twenty kilometres. "From here, you sail less than an hour and you are already in the English zone. We've been fishing 60% of our fish for generations! For trawlers, it's worse, it's 80%, "he says, feverish.

"I can put the key under the door"

In the European Union, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) allows all European vessels access to the fishing grounds of other Member States, provided that they comply with catch quotas. But with Brexit, the British government intends to recover its maritime sovereignty and the control of its waters, particularly large and full of fish.

A few meters below, at the foot of a wet ladder, five sailors arrive from the Nereids. "I spend half of the year on the English side. If I lose that, I can put the key under the door, " blows the boss, Jeremy Devogel.

In waxed trousers and suspenders, his employees unload their cargo on the pontoon: "100 to 400 kg daily" , depending on the season.

But "there is less and less fish. For four years, it's in free fall , " says Michael Baillet, drawn on the red bow of Providence.

"With electric fishing and all Belgian, Dutch and even Danish boats fishing 24 hours a day, the resource is running out. Imagine if we all have to tighten in an area twice as small ... What will we find in our waters?" , He loose, bitter.

"We will walk on our feet and it may go into a naval battle! " Warns Stéphane Pinto," first between French and foreigners, and even between different trades "Because gillnetters, fish farmers, trawlers or industrial deep-sea fishers, who do not use the same techniques, will be embarrassed "and there will be some breakage" .

"We are not compatible," confirms Christophe Marcq, captain of Don Lubi II, hands screwed on the rudder.

From his wooden cabin, he refers to the stern filled with thousands of square meters of white nets, knotted ropes and anchors: "30 000 euros of equipment, sometimes deposited all night at sea for miles, unattended".

Foreign trawlers, "three times bigger than us, tow their gear all night. If they know there is fish, they will cross our zone, even if it breaks everything , "he says.

"Every minute counts"

If, until now, the fleets had "found compromises and common ground" , the overpopulation "will break the balance and relaunch tensions," feared the captain.

Mareyage, transport, processing of seafood, packaging: for the industrial area of ​​Capécure and its dozens of warehouses, on the other side of the port, a hard Brexit would also be "very problematic" , assures Stéphane Pinto.

Employing "more than 5,000 people," and "processing nearly 400,000 tonnes of goods per year, the fish industry depends here half of the fish passing through England," says Frederic Cuvillier, PS Mayor of Boulogne-sur-Mer Sea. Without a commercial agreement, professionals will have to "deal with customs duties, veterinary and sanitary border checks" on "fresh products for which every minute counts," he adds.

And if the Europeans still hope to negotiate access to fishing areas in a global trade agreement, British Prime Minister Theresa May, pressed by public opinion and supporters of the Leave on this "highly sensitive" issue , will not let go . She "could even use this subject to demonstrate to the English its inflexible side , " fears the former minister of Francois Hollande.

So, between the stalls of the fish market, uncertainty reigns. "We do not know what will fall on us, but we will continue to fight," promises Stephane Pinto, refusing to "see sinking passionate fishermen . "

Brexit. Norman fishermen fear disaster

"The rejection of the UK deal is bad news for fishermen."

Half of the fishing landed in Normandy comes from the English coast. The rejection of the agreement negotiated with the European Union by the British Parliament on Tuesday January 15th makes fear the worst to the profession.

The massive rejection of the British MPs of the agreement negotiated by Theresa May with the European Union anguishes the Norman fishermen. Half of the landings made by the 588 vessels in the region come from English waters. "For fishing, this decision of Brexit without agreement adds an additional concern to the already existing problems. It's going to make things even more complicated, especially for offshore vessels, "said Dimitri Rogoff, chair of the Normandy Regional Fisheries Committee.

Without agreement, the 1,500 fishermen from Normandy will lose half of the Channel. "It would be a disaster! " Confides Dimitri Rogoff. But a glimmer of hope remains. "The anglers across the Channel would have the same problems to come on our side. " And the area interests them: the naval battle last summer around the scallop shells is still in everyone's mind ...

For Dimitri Rogoff, "nothing is fixed or recorded yet for fishing. It is a small subject compared to the others but which can condition other negotiations ", he likes to recall.

The invasion of the Britons?

The Norman sees another pressure coming from Brittany that one. "The Bretons want permission to come to work in the East Channel. We are already saturated in number of fishermen." Do the Normans have to fear an invasion of their waters by the Bretons? "This is not the subject," says Olivier Le Nézet, the chairman of the Brittany Fisheries Committee. The main species caught in Normandy is the shell. It is not an economically profitable fishery for boats of 25 or 30 m. We are not going to replace the English with the Bretons. "

The 800 Breton fishermen also make 50% of their turnover in British waters. Without agreement, "with the Hauts-de-France and Normandy, at least 500 ships will return home," said Olivier Nezet. Forced to retreat to French waters, these deep-sea vessels will not benefit from fishing rights, that is to say rights to fish species under quota. They may therefore have to disarm. Their return would play a destabilizing role for the fleets already fishing off the French coast.

The chairman of the regional fisheries committee wants to believe that the sector can still escape the cataclysm. "If there is a new British government, nothing will prevent it from holding a second referendum, which will give another result."