The French Institute for Maritime Exploitation, known as Ifremer, was optimistic in presenting its 2020 report on the state of fish stocks caught in France, but it still called for continued efforts, especially in the Mediterranean. where the situation is more worrying. EURACTIV France reports.
Twenty years ago, only 15% of fish caught in France came from sustainably exploited stocks, compared to 60% recorded in 2020 – a positive development, according to Ifremer researchers.
Each year, the institute takes an inventory of fish stocks caught in France, because there is no guarantee that French waters will always be full of fish in the future.
Lfremer biologist Alain Biseau warned during the presentation of the 2020 report that “overfishing has considerably reduced our fish stocks in recent years”. “Some 21% of fish caught in France still come from overexploited populations,” he added.
According to the 2020 report, which paints a relatively encouraging picture, the situation of our oceans must nevertheless continue to be “closely scrutinized”.
Apart from overfishing, France is not meeting the objectives of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), under which the EU had committed that by 2020 100% of the stocks fished comply “maximum sustainable yield” levels.
However, neither this objective nor that of the framework directive on the strategy for the marine environment – which obliges EU countries to develop strategies to ensure the “good environmental state” of fish stocks – are currently being achieved.
The global degradation of fish stocks will affect France
Although the state of fish stocks is gradually improving in France, the President of Ifremer pointed to the “gradual degradation of fish stocks” on a global scale. “What happens at the end of the world,” he said, will inevitably impact us, given that “our ecosystems are so interdependent”.
This contrast is also observed on the French coasts. While fish stocks on the Atlantic coast have increased, the overall situation in the Mediterranean remains worrying, according to the report. “The Mediterranean is an area of interest for different actors, different countries,” said Ifremer Scientific Director Clara Ulrich.
“Certainly, when it comes to bluefin tuna, stocks and fishing have improved significantly. But this is not the case for many other species: sardines, anchovies, red mullet, hake… ”, she added.
With its elongated body and light gray hue, hake was once an iconic fish of the Mediterranean Sea. In 2020, Ifremer classified Mediterranean hake among the “collapsed populations”, but pointed to “the specific management plan for the restoration of hake populations”, which “had a very encouraging impact on fish stocks” , according to Ulrich.
A fisheries management plan for the Mediterranean
“This year, the Bay of Biscay hake was classified ‘in good condition’, whereas it had almost collapsed 20 years ago. People react very quickly to changes in fishing pressure, ”added the researcher. However, the political will to implement them remains to be seen.
Regarding hake and red mullet from the Gulf of Lion, France, Italy and Spain have committed, as part of a fisheries management plan in the western Mediterranean in 2019, to temporarily close certain areas to protect young fish. and reduce their trawl catches by 30% by 2025..
Trawling is the subject of growing criticism, with environmental associations blaming this practice for contributing to the industrialization of the fishing industry and having an impact on marine resources.
A map recently published by France Nature Environnement, the French federation of associations for the protection of nature and the environment, lists more than 415,000 hours of “destructive fishing” in the marine protected areas of the Bay of Biscay between 2015 and 2018, involving bottom trawling, gillnet and dredging.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]