Boulogne trawler skipper Olivier Lepretre, who also serves as vice-president of France’s CNPMEM Fishermen’s Committee and president of the Hauts-de-France Regional Committee, has stated that a hard Brexit would have severe consequences – and makes it clear that if this happens, French fishermen will have nothing to lose by taking action.
‘Everyone in the fishing industry, from Brittany to Dunkirk, is concerned,’ he said. ‘Everyone will be affected by the displaced fishing effort along the entire French coast. If we and other European fishermen are excluded from UK waters, that fishing effort will shift to French waters and that will be the end of French fishing,’ he said.
‘If we can’t work in British waters, which are our historical fishing grounds, then we can expect to see the whole European fleet descend on French waters, over-exploiting stocks and making it impossible to work alongside each other. If we’re not able to work at sea, then we will have time on our hand to take an interest in British interests in Europe,’ he warned.
‘If we are sacrificed to Brexit, then we have nothing left to lose. We will get rid of every British flagged vessel, regardless of its ownership. That’ll be hard luck for the opportunists.’
He warned that at the same time, French fishermen will also be looking out for British fish being exported to Europe.
‘There’s no question about it,’ he said. ‘Not a single kilo of seafood from Britain will be allowed into Europe.’
He commented that he is asking representatives of the French fishing industry to take a clear stance.
‘I’m also asking them to contact other European fishermen to set out this same position across Europe,’ Olivier Lepretre said.
‘It is in the French fishing industry’s interests to mobilise together, and this should be headed by the Fisheries Committee. I am asking the chairman to focus on this as a matter of national priority, and pending an agreement, to call a halt to all negotiations over MPAs, wind farms, etc, all of which are taking away the space fishermen need to work.’