Moves towards a long-awaited ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ on seine netting activity in the Eastern Channel have – yet again – come to nothing, and French fishermen are asking for government intervention.
Discussions have been in progress since 2019 between the French industry and representatives of the operators of Dutch-, Belgian- and UK-flagged seine netters operating in the Eastern Channel, and have more thanonce broken down. This has happened again as a latest attempt to reach agreement has not been possible.
French industry body CNPMEM has stated that the representatives of the Dutch, Belgian and UK seine netters have not changed their position and talks ended last month. Consequently, it is seeking to elevate the negotiations to government level.
A CNPMEM representative commented that it welcomes the general desire expressed by its partners in Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom on the need to put in place through common and sustainable management measures in the Eastern Channel, a sustainable framework limiting or even reduction of fishing effort in this area under multiple pressures.
The sticking points that have sunk this latest round of negotiations have been the number of authorised vessels, with CNPMEM not prepared to accept inactive licences – currently two for the Belgian fleet and five for the Dutch fleet
‘Maintaining a reserve of inactive licenses renders meaningless an agreement which aims to control, freeze or even reduce seine net fishing effort. It is not possible to manage fishing effort with the possibility of increases in the future,’ a CNPMEM representative said.
‘As Belgian and Dutch organisations have indicated that only their administrations are in a position to provide an answer, it seems essential to bring these discussions to the relevant level.’
A further obstacle has been the question of regional measures, with CNPMEM firm on the need to excluse seine netting in the 12-mile zone off the Normandy coast.
‘CNPMEM therefore requests that the State take up the urgent task of setting up the framework needed in the Eastern Channel, and relaunch negotiations with the other administrations concerned,’ a CNPMEM representative commented.