French fishermen blockade Boulogne-sur-Mer to protest proposed EU trawling ban
French fishermen are blockading the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer through Tuesday, 28 March, the latest in a series of protests of the European Union’s proposed fisheries action plan, which calls for the eventual elimination of bottom-trawling in some areas.
Seven fishing vessels began a symbolic blockage of the port on Sunday, 26 March, according to The Express. Previous protests from fishermen, criticizing high fuel prices and French and E.U. policies blamed for hurting the fishing sector, blocked the ports of Lorient and Rennes in mid-March.
Olivier Leprêtre, president of the Hauts-de-France regional fisheries committee, said the E.U. biodiversity plan, released 21 February, and a national decarbonization plan will result in the “disappearance of the French fishing industry” through the banning of bottom-trawling in marine protected areas beginning in 2030.
Leprêtre said the E.U. plan "would be the death of the port of Boulogne,” which brought in EUR 85 million (USD 91.7 million) in seafood-related revenue in 2022 and accounted for 5,000 jobs in the fishing industry and support sectors. More than 80 percent of the port’s production is provided by dredges, trawls, seines, and other bottom-fishing gears that would be prohibited in some waters under the plan, according to Leprêtre. Under the new rules, just 20 percent of the Pas-de-Calais Strait would remain accessible to fishing, according to Leprêtre said.
"This plan is counterproductive. It risks destroying European fishing and favoring imports from areas where fishing is not regulated," Leprêtre said.
A September 2022 report from environmental non-governmental organizations Seas at Risk and Oceana found bottom trawling is the main fishing method used across Europe, accounting for 32 percent of total E.U. landings, or 7.3 million metric tons (MT). But the practice is responsible for 93 percent of all reported discards, equating to 1 million MT between 2015 and 2019. Replacing bottom trawls with any of the 25 other types of gear commonly used by E.U. fishing fleets, such as purse-seines, set-gillnets, pots, or traps would dramatically improve fisheries resources, the report found.
French fishers were further angered by a decision from French President Emmanuel Macron in February 2023 that opened fish markets in Brittany to seafood caught by British vessels. The controversy arose as a result of a post-Brexit deal signed by Macron that redistributed fishing licenses and allowed more U.K. seafood into France.
Last month, Macron issued a statement of support to his country’s fishermen, reiterating a previous promise to provide compensation to French fishermen for any losses they suffered as a result of the transition, according to Reuters.
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