On the occasion of the Assises de la mer, which took place in Nice, a few days ago, the Breton Hervé Berville, Secretary of State for the Sea, confirmed that the diesel aid planned until October 15, 2023 (20 cents per liter) would not be renewed "to return to a form of normality while accompanying our fishermen" and because "in the end, it's French taxpayers' money," he told Ouest-France and TV Rennes. Even before the end of his speech in Nice, all the fishermen present, including many Bretons (Brittany alone representing nearly 60% of French fishing), left the room.
"Sailors will soon no longer be sufficiently remunerated"
"The price of diesel for fishing is now between 90 cents and 1 euro per litre, slips Yves Foëzon, director of the Fishermen of Brittany, one of the largest producer organizations in France (650 vessels including Loire-Atlantique, 85,000 tons of production for 350 million euros of turnover in 2022) based in Quimper. The problem is that no one anticipated this context. If diesel had still, at best, remained below 70 cents, things could have been different. We are currently working at a loss, and seafarers will soon no longer be paid enough to go to sea. There is now a real state of emergency. If fishing does not pass this unprecedented state of crisis, a number of shipping companies will close in the coming months."
For most professionals in Finistère, whose fleet is located in the heart of the Bigouden country, in Guilvinec, we grind their teeth. The first French artisanal fishing port sticks its tongue out. "This is no longer tenable," says Christophe Collin, director of Armament Bigouden. Less than 15 days ago, one of my boats returned from 15 days at sea. Result of the races: 43,000 euros of fish sold at auction... for an invoice of 23,000 euros of diesel. That means that fishermen spent half their working time paying for fuel... »
A second groundswell
Already threatened by the bans on fishing zones linked to Brexit, the entire sector, which accounts for tens of thousands of jobs in Lower Brittany alone, is "on the edge of the abyss", as we hear everywhere on the auctions of the department.
A few months ago, the Individualized Support Plan (PAI), set up to overcome these bans (and nicknamed by many "scrapping plan"), provided for financial aid from the State to help French fishermen strongly impacted... with, in return, the destruction of boats that were no longer profitable... In Brittany, 45 applications were selected, including 26 from the Bigoudène fleet alone.
"This diesel crisis, closely linked to the war in Ukraine, is a second groundswell that would impact the economy of the territory. We must act! ", storm, Yves Foëzon.
In the meantime, Maël de Calan, president of the departmental council of Finistère, announced that he had sent, with local elected officials and all fishing professions, a collective letter addressed to the President of the Republic. The objective: that Emmanuel Macron comes to see for himself "in Guilvinec or elsewhere, so that he realizes that this sector is on the edge of the precipice".
"No question of giving up"
"We held this Monday an extraordinary board of directors to decide on our next actions and steps vis-à-vis the State, said today Olivier Le Nezet, Breton sailor-fisherman and current president of the National Fisheries Committee.
"At the European level, it is questionable whether the French state defends its sector. For months, there has been insistence on a renewal of the European emergency aid framework as long as the Ukrainian conflict lasts (...) ». And the President of the Committee concludes: "We thought that the messages had passed with the Dead Sector Days (end of March 2023). It is clear that the accumulation of constraints that weighs on our profession continues and that, without any emotion, the State is witnessing the gradual disintegration of our sector. To the professionals, I can only say that there is no question of giving up on the sad fate that seems to be reserved for us."