La Rochelle, France (7 jours/7)


Questioning fishing activities

The levels of strandings recorded on the French coasts for several years suggest that by-catch levels  are not sustainable for common dolphin populations in the Bay of Biscay.
Pelagis has been warning about this for many years.


“By-catches” refers to species caught unintentionally by the various commercial or recreational fishing trades.

From January to March 2020, the RNE (Réseau National Échouages) recorded 1,067 strandings of small cetaceans on the Atlantic coast and in the Channel. Undoubtedly, according to the examinations carried out, the capture in fishing gear remains the main cause of mortality observed in common dolphins during multiple stranding events in winter since the 1990s.

This situation is worrying and this problem is not specific to France as it affects other neighbouring countries. If pelagic trawlers have been since
many years concerned by incidental catches of dolphins, other fisheries are also involved. The examination of certain stranded animals and the improvement of knowledge on the circumstances of catches make it possible to identify certain gillnets and trammel nets as fisheries at risk for small cetaceans.

What solutions?

Since 2017, a national working group, co-piloted by the ministries responsible for fisheries and the environment, made up of fisheries professionals, scientists and managers, has been working on this issue. Its main objective is the exchange of information; and the monitoring of the different programmes implemented to acquire knowledge on dolphin populations, catches or means of mitigation.

The LICADO programme aiming at finding ways to reduce common dolphin catches started in 2019, financed within the framework of the FEAMP (European Fund for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) and supported by the CNPMEM. This project aims, on the one hand, to develop new acoustic repellent systems and, on the other hand, to reflect on avoidance practices and strategies for the net trade.

The use of certain models of acoustic repellents may be part of the response to by-catches in the pelagic trawl sector. The resumption of tests at sea during the winter of 2018 on 3 pairs of trawlers seems encouraging, but the effectiveness on a fleet scale has yet to be validated (PIC project, supported by the producers’ organisation Pêcheurs de Bretagne). For the net trade, there is still no known and reliable technological way of reducing catches, and the use of acoustic repellents is not operationally or ecologically feasible in the fishery.

For the net trade, there is as yet no known and reliable technology to reduce catches, and the use of acoustic repellents is not operationally or ecologically feasible in this context (significant deployment, large exclusion zone and ineffectiveness of commercial models on nets).

Overfishing and seabirds

Seabirds and fisheries compete for marine resources on a global scale. Overfishing is one of the main causes of the decline in seabird populations. Fisheries discards that attract birds behind fishing boats are often of inferior quality to their usual food. Moreover, this attraction exposes them to accidental capture by fishing gear.