18 July 2012
The French Government is attempting to derail democratic debate on deep-sea conservation within the European Union in an apparent attempt to protect France’s minority fishing interests, including the French supermarket chain Intermarché, owner of several large-scale deep-sea trawlers.
After a last minute move by Michel Barnier (former French Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and now the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services) to delay the European Commission’s proposal to phase out deep-sea bottom trawlingfrom going before the European Parliament, the French Ministerof Fisheries, Frederic Cuvillier, has stepped in and told the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, that a phase out of deep-sea bottom trawling is “not acceptable”.*
Cuvillier’s statement would appear to be at odds with his government’s position last month in Rio de Janeiro. The French delegation, led by President Hollande, fought hard to secure protection for high seas biodiversity during the UN Rio+20 Conference. “Perhaps Minister Cuvillier does not realise how much of the high seas is deep ocean and that these same ecosystems are under threat from bottom trawl fishing in EU waters as well as on the high seas”, said Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. “Or perhaps Cuvillier is out of step with his President.”
Calling on the French to allow the matter to go before the European Parliament for open democratic debate, Gianni added, “This blatant self-interest has been seen on a number of occasions in relation to fisheries. The French Government must address at the highest level the duty to protect the marine environment and ensure sustainable fisheries in the deep-sea.”