Reacting to what it sees as an opportunistic oversimplification of the issue, the Collectif Pêche et développement organization brings us an interesting and dramatic analisis on the definition of small-scale fisheries, as well as the consequences such a definition might lead to.
The small-scale fishing sector has specific problems and must reinforce means of defense to face them. These threats are tourism, recreational fishing, pollutions, conflicting fishing practices, access to resources, extension of reserves without concertation, among many others.
The « Collectif Pêche et Développement » acknowledges the need of a small-scale fishing organization in France and in Europe, and has for years supported initiatives put forward by the signatories, such as the promotion of prudhomies, and management units, etc.
Yet, upon haring about the creation of a new artisanal fishing organization in France, with the support of the big environmental NGOs, the Collectif states its disagreement with numerous points formulated in the declaration, which repeat, without criticizing in the least, some refrains of the Commission and some NGOs.
- It is wrong to say that 80 % of the stocks are being overfished, this litany ends up in supporting shamelessly the project of a reduction of 2/3 of the fishing effort suggested by the Commission. With such a project, it is clear that small-scale fishing will not escape from the savage cut. In the short term, it will end up with small-scale fishing increasing along the coast line which is already saturated, as it has always happened whenever deep-sea fishing was stopped. The price to pay will be high in the future.
- Artisanal fishing is not limited to small-scale fishing. In Brittany, particularly, where artisanal fishing has existed for centuries, they have been able to exploit the resources of a plateau that spreads largely on 200 miles. You can't possibly go out fishing with a 12-metre-boat to exploit such resources. As we intend to defend small-scale fishing, we want a just well balanced repartition of artisanal fishing on the whole EEZ and even beyond it, as it has been done for albacore. Reducing artisanal fishing to the mere segment of small-scale fishing means supporting a concentration of fishing beyond the 12 miles in the hands of some industrial companies with a reduced number of big boats. It is what the Commission and NGOs want it to be, on the basis of a choice favoring maximum profit. This choice is far from being the only one to secure sustainable fishing. With such an option, it is the whole of the fishing system in South Brittany that is threatened of disappearing, with the backing and support of the signatories. In doing so, they give a hand to Europe in inflicting a deathblow to a culture and a tradition that have existed for centuries, regardless of rights that have been acquired by generations of artisanal fishermen, most often at the cost of their lives.
- To adopt such a definition of artisanal fishing is to flout the debates that are going on amidst the RACs (Regional Advisory Council) on a definition that should take into account regional realities.
- The price to pay for bringing in environmental NGOs to support this declaration and organization will have to be considered. It is first, a public guarantee given to the positions of these NGOs on the ban on driftnets and thonailles in the Mediterranean. In the future, it will be support to the extension of reserves - that are far from being to the advantage of fishermen -, support in favor of taxing fuel, of restrictions on dragnets, etc...
Globally, this declaration in support of small-scale fishing means backing the ecological-liberal vision shared by the Commission and some NGOs, despite a few apparent divergences. Fishing will clearly be divided into two sectors :
- On the one hand : deep-sea fishing reduced to a few big boats in the hands of powerful companies largely resorting to a foreign underpaid workforce, so as to get a quick return on its costs,
- on the other : small-scale fishing that will have to face an explosion in the number of boats since fishermen will hardly have access to deep-sea.
Fishing reduction, as well as higher prices for European fish will be compensated by low-cost imports from the South and the development of an industrial aquaculture. Of course, fishmeal fisheries will have to go on. The Commission, NGOs and the signatories don't say a word about it.
All this puts the finishing touch to what seems to be the masked project of the French administration, and a few other intrested parties : to get rid of these burdensome artisanal fishermen, difficult to be controlled, who occupy spaces coveted by much more powerful interests, such as tourism, marine energies, and the bureaucrats of biodiversity.
In a few words : the signatories are bringing funeral wreaths.
Collective Pêche & Développement