On Sunday 12 and Monday 13 December, the European Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers meets in Brussels. For the Mediterranean, it will be a question of negotiating or approving the West Med 2022 plan in which it is a question of reducing, once again, the fishing effort and this, in an already very tense context for the sector. This Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon, the fishing ports of Occitanie will be blocked.
It is a profession, a sector, which is on the verge of cracking. In any case, this is what fishing professionals in Occitania claim. According to them, in the medium term, if Europe is stubborn, some 5,200 jobs in the Region are at risk. The days of Sunday and Monday, during which the Council of European Ministers of Fisheries and Agriculture will take place in Brussels will be decisive for the survival, or not, of the fisheries economy of Occitania.
Decisive because it will once again be a question of reducing the fishing effort on Mare Nostrum. As a reminder, 3300 km2 are closed at least six months a year to fishing in the Mediterranean, i.e. 50% of the Gulf of Lion. Since the West Med plan was launched in 2020, the number of authorized fishing days for trawlers has increased from 200 to 183 this year. It is a question of reducing to 167 in 2022 and to 143 in 2025. A very hard blow for the armaments, which, according to their profiles, have break-even points between 170 and 209 campaign days per year.
As Bernard Perez, chairman of the regional fisheries committee, recently recalled in L’Indépendant, this drastic plan is compounded by the significant increase in fuel prices and the imminent prospect of the installation of floating wind farms.
80% of auction intake
80% of the supply from the Occitanie auctions (Port-La Nouvelle, Sète and Le Grau du Roi) comes from trawlers. Without it, say shipowners and POs (producer organizations), the whole system can supply restaurants, fishmongers, markets, fishmongers, supermarkets and therefore, at the end of the day, the consumers who are going to have a hard time. And with a few exceptions, small trades that do not only work in short and local circuits, will also suffer serious consequences if the auctions pass from life to death.
If Europe is so rigid vis-à-vis fishing in the Mediterranean (Italy and Spain are not excluded from the stakes) it is for the preservation of two species in particular: hake and red mullet . Incidentally also shrimp and red gammon. Four, therefore, out of 200 species present in Mare Nostrum, knowing, point out the professionals “that there is no real data concerning the resource, globally or specifically on these fish and crustaceans”.
The context is very tense and this Saturday, December 11, the fishing industry will be mobilized in all the ports concerned. A symbolic blockage and boats that will not go to sea, in the form of a warning, because, according to our sources, if the negotiations in which the French Minister for the Sea, Annick Girardin, will take part, the tone could harden as soon as the beginning of next year.
Verbatim: the positions of Annick Girardin, Minister of the Sea
On the fishing effort
“Professionals have already accepted a reduction of 10% in 2020 and 7.5% in 2021. They have also accepted space-time closures in order to protect the hake. These closures have been assessed extremely positively by the Institute research institute for the exploitation of the sea (Ifremer) which concluded that catches of juvenile hake were reduced by around 55%, far exceeding the objective of the management plan, which was 20%. of the European Commission for 2022 is a drop of 7.5%. The challenge of the negotiations will be to avoid this drop, or even limit it as much as possible. On this point, we know we can count on our Spanish partner.”
On fuel prices
“I am very concerned about the significant increase in fuel. This is a major expense item for fishermen. With a price today at more than 60 cents per litre, an amount that has doubled in one year, the cost of fuel is even more decisive in the profitability of the tides. In order to help fishermen, I continue to defend our tax model which allows for tax-free fuel. I also believe in innovation. We must be able to build more energy-efficient ships and Europe must help us do this.”
On resource management
“I repeat: my objective is shared with the fishermen, it is a question of making the Mediterranean an exemplary sea in order to strengthen the sustainability of the resource and the competitiveness of the fishing sector. The European management plan (WestMed) must allow us to achieve this objective for 2025. Regarding eel, I am convinced that sustainable fishing can be maintained, in compliance of course with the management regimes in force and thanks to the efforts of professionals.”
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