What is a Pelagic Trawl ?
A Trawl is very different in comparison to drifting nets which have been heavily critisized in recent years, (drifting nets are now submitted to strict regulations and will be prohibited in Europe in January 2002).
A trawl is funnel shaped, pulled by one or two boats for several hours at a speed of 3 knots (approximately 5Km/h).Pelagic trawls used in France have an opening of 50 to 70m. in height, a width of 80m. for a depth of 150m. They are called “Pelagic” because they are used between the surface and the sea bottom, at depths ranging from 50 to 180m. and often to 400 - 600m.
Pelagic reawls were employed in the bay of Biscaye for catching anchovy, hake, mackerel, herring, sardines, bass, daurade and Tunny fish. They are mainly used in the Mediterranean to catch anchovy and sardines.
A Pelagic trawler works more or less 220 days a year, fishing 10 to 12 hours a day, approximately 2500 hours a year, half of which is trawling, with a speed of 5km/h, sailing 12500 km. a year, therefore covering 1.000 square km., with an opening of 80m in width. The 160 French trawlers thus rake 80.000 square km. a year. During 6 years they have completely raked a surface equal to that of France.
Trawling : Period during which the boat drags the trawl.
Is it necessary to condemn the Pelagic trawl ?
The Pelagic trawl is highly efficient : 16% of the French fishing fleet is equipped with such a trawl (which represents 9,6% of the European fishing vessels) They catch approximately 80% of the fish unloaded in our ports.
Therefore it is totally responsable :
- for the death of several thousands of dolphins each year,
- for the overexploitation of the fish reserves,
- a lower quality of the nutritional values, the taste and the sanitary conditions of the fish which remain crushed in the bottom of the trawl for several hours, then frozen for several weeks,
- the decrease in the market prices of the fish (but these prices will increase as soon as the reserves run out).
The Pelagic trawl cannot choose what it catches, but on the contrary it rakes up everything during its progress.
Therefore it is totally responsable in the dramatic decreasing of the reserves :
- when throwing back into the sea, tens of thousands of tons of fish (to small to be sold, non-commerciable species, to many different fish which cannot be sorted out by the fishermen due to lack of time), these rejects represent 10 to 80% in one drag o the trawl,
- by the capture of the juveniles of many species (weakening in the renewal of the reserves),
- by the fishing in all depths, there is no possible region for the juveniles or breeders to seek refuge,
- by catching many protected species, including several thousands of dolphins each year.
Since the developing of this type of fishing in the Bay of Biscaye, each winter (during the fishing season) several hundreds of dolphins are found stranded on the south-west coasts : 80% of them bear marks of their captures in the trawls and it has been proved that the dolphins thus found represent only a small purcentage of these killed out at sea.
Is the Pelagic trawl in accordance with the regulations ?
The Pelagic trawl does not respect the French and European regulations :
- In the Mediterranean the Pelagic trawlers are 3 to 4 times more powerful than the margin prescribed by the European Regulations,
- the fishing quotas are very often concealed (European Regulation N°850/98. Ministerial Order 04/11/1970, European Directive N°92/43 - Natura 2000 21/05/1992, principle of precautions : Amsterdam Treaty and respect of the UNO Regulations, Common fishing policy N° 3760/92, Law of Orientation on Fishing N°97-1051 18/11/1997),
- pelagic trawlers often operate within the 3 mile zone, which is prohibited to all form of trawling.
What does lobbying mean ?
The subsidies favour the owners of Pelagic trawlers to the detriment of small trades. The European subsidies are allocated for :
- the acquisition of big boats,
- the fishing equipment of big boats (conditioning, cranes etc…),
- the maintenance of a low price, (spoilt trawler fish which cannot be sold are very often included in this category),
- the auctions (which operate due to 80% of trawler fish),
- wholesale fish merchants (80% of trawler fish).
Because of the total of these subsidies, the Pelagic trawlers cost a lot of money for the taxpayers.
What actions are to be taken
By reason of this very grave situation, we demand :
- a proposition of a moratorium on the use of Pelagic trawlsin in application of the principle of precaution,
- a reexamination of the system of subsidies allocated to the users of Pelagic trawls as well as the most equipments,
- the setting up of a scientific study on the impact of these fishing equipments upon the ecosystem, the haliotic reserves and their use (this study should be done by a privately independent organisation).
When the net is pulled in, carrying several tons of fish and dolphins, there is no way the dolphins can just be thrown back to sea : theirs is a protected species. Dolphins weigh around a hundred kilos. Their skin, smooth and slippery, makes it totally uneasy to handle them. Which is why they are bound by the tail using a cable so that they can be picked up with a crane. Once over board, the cable is cut, or even the tail so that the cable can be used again. Thus, dolphins that have been caught almost always show proofs of their capture: cable around the tail or no tail, the skin torn by the nets.
For the past few months, however, the sailors have been asked to unwind the cable without damaging the tail, so that no proof of capture by pelagic nets can be found. Furthermore, the bodies are gored so that gases don’t make them float. Some proofs are not so easy to dispose of, though. Dolphins will bear marks around the nose and on their body where their skin was torn while they tried to fight the net, before they ended up drowning.