As demonstrations continued to rock French fishing ports, France’s Minister for the Sea Hervé Berville followed up his pledge made during a meeting with industry figures last week and went to Brussels at the weekend – and obtained an undertaking from Commissioner for the Environment and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius that a ban on mobile gear in MPAs would not be imposed on Member States.
‘I made a commitment to the fishermen to take their voices to Brussels – and that’s what we have done this Sunday,’ Hervé Berville said, commenting that he has been reassured.
‘He acknowledged that French fishing, among the most carefully managed in the world, has shown that it is possible to have fishing activities, preserve the marine environment and have quality products. Prohibiting without distinction all fishing techniques that touch the bottom without taking into account local specifics would have been a nonsense, and the end of artisanal fishing which is at the heart of our coastal regions.’
The Commissioner comfirmed during the meeting with the French Minister for the Sea that the Commission’s Action Plan only offers guidelines to Member States and that dialogue with fishermen remains open – and there will be no obligation for France (and therefore other member states) to follow these guidelines on restricting demersal fisheries in MPAs.
Hervé Berville stated that it has been essential to get this confirmation, as if the Commission’s guidelines were to be implemented in France, this would end fisheries for scallops in the Baie de Saint-Brieuc, oysters in Quiberon and widespread fisheries for langoustine, among others.
The Minister confirmed that there would be no ban on demersal gear in Marine Protected Areas – neither in 2024 nor in 2030 – and that the Action Plan presented by the European Commission would not be interpreted as being legally binding.
‘This meeting in Brussels was also an opportunity for constructive dialogue,’ Hervé Berville said.
‘The Commissioner took note of the management measures and efforts made by French fishermen in marine protected areas.’