Thursday, 26 September 2019

Brexit: Fishermen's spirits start to warm up

Another Brexit view from across the Channel:

Faced with the imminent threat of Brexit and a possible denial of access to British waters, the tension climbs between French and British fishermen, and could win the French between them.

"We really need to alert the state services on what is happening at sea," worries Sophie Leroy, head of Arming Cherbourg, a company that employs twenty sailors and thirty or so people on three boats.

At a round table at the close of the fishery in Granville (Manche), she described "since mid-August a huge tension between British and French" and "a strengthening of almost daily controls of the British authorities."

"Last Saturday, 21 miles off the coast of England", during a check described as endless, "we ended up with 15 boats (English) around ours and they said: + we will do the same as what the French last year we did "during the scallop war," said Ms. Leroy.

If the sailors are not coming to blows, she evokes a "war of nerves" on social networks: "I had a picture of one of my boats published on Facebook with a target on it."

But the English are not the only source of anxiety for Ms. Leroy. Like other armaments, it fears that the closure of the English waters, in case of Brexit hard without agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, pushes the French fishermen-fishermen to dispute the fishery resource between them.

This spectre of internal struggles, for example between Breton and Norman fishermen, haunted the assizes as soon as they opened on Thursday early in the afternoon.

When he came, the Minister of Agriculture Didier Guillaume constantly called for "solidarity" between EU countries likely to be affected, but also between French fishermen.

"A Brexit without agreement, it is a considerable stake for us", recalled Philippe de Lambert des Granges, in charge of the file at the direction of Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture (DPMA). "It's 20% at the level of the metropolitan activity in value, and it's 25% in volumes."

- Other European countries concerned -

Figures that explain the nervousness of French fishermen, especially as they hide huge disparities.

British waters thus represent 70% of the catches made by the company raised by Mrs Leroy with her husband.

"From Boulogne to Brittany, we will all be impacted, so we will all be on our teeth, so inevitably there will be conflicts between fishermen, between inshore fishing, between gillnetters, between offshore trawlers that will come more to the coast "she said.

"The difficulty is to quantify these fishing reports in British waters," said Hubert Carré, director general of the national fisheries committee. "The decision of postponement belongs to each head of enterprise", which can also choose a temporary stop of its fleet, compensated by European aids.

But many shipowners are reluctant to use this device for fear of losing markets.

"We are a number of players in the Pays de la Loire region that we are worried about potential conflicts of postponements of fishing in the Atlantic, and more precisely in the Bay of Biscay," said a representative of the regional council, questioning participants in the round table on conflicts between French fishermen or between them and their Spanish neighbors.

For France would not be the only one to suffer from the end of access to English waters.

Eight EU Member States are concerned, said Philippe de Lambert des Granges. "Our Belgian colleagues are addicted to 45% in volume and 50% in value."

"We do not exist at the community level if we are isolated," he said, calling for "absolutely keep" the "cohesion at the level of the eight Member States impacted", and recalling "the determination (of the State in the case of Brexit without agreement, to maintain or restore access to British waters as soon as possible ".