Dolphin killing: the European Commission is once again putting pressure on France

Professionals consider them to be “incidental catches”; the common people rather see as a sad spectacle these hundreds of dolphins which wash up each year on the French coast, collateral victims of the gear of the fishermen. For the French government, they are a recurring source of problematic exchanges with the European Commission, and for marine defense associations, an endless casus belli.

The last letter from Brussels left on October 4, coming from the Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG Mare). It again concerns the means of reducing these accidents in the Bay of Biscay and the lack of efforts on the part of Paris in particular to remedy them. The catastrophic fate of cetaceans in French Atlantic waters should immediately require the closures of certain fishing areas, as scientists clearly recommend. As long as the Ministry of the Sea does not resolve it, the situation will not improve. The Commission, says DG Mare, cannot therefore be legally satisfied with the measures proposed in October 2020 by a group formed by France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium. They have until October 29 to review their copy.

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For Paris, the problem is mainly concentrated in the Bay of Biscay where 93% of the fishing effort is made by French vessels. However, the diagnoses of the fisheries converge: in a landmark opinion of May 26, 2020, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) affirms that bycatch is indeed the main threat to the common dolphin in the Atlantic. North-East – a population estimated at around 634,000 individuals – and advocates the prohibition of certain sectors from fishing for three months in winter and one month in summer. Even the International Whaling Commission gets involved and asks that the European Union and the Member States quickly implement the temporary closure measures suggested by ICES, combined the rest of the time with the use of repellent ultrasound transmitters, the “pingers”.

It’s urgent

On the side of fishermen supported by the Ministry of the Sea, we put a lot of emphasis on this equipment. But DG Mare points out that they have already been used by trawlers in France since 2019 and that they have not “Unfortunately not yet led to substantial reductions in strandings on the Atlantic coasts”. DG Mare Director Charlina Vitcheva welcomes efforts “Additional data collection undertaken to understand the problem of strandings”, but ensure that “It is not enough in the short term”. New and concrete mitigation measures are missing. However, the Commission has already sent a formal notice to Paris on July 2, 2020 for its ineffectiveness in saving common dolphins – an animal strictly protected in Europe and in French law.

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Dolphin killing: the European Commission is once again putting pressure on France