‘So heartening’ Brexit row forgotten as UK and French fishermen join mid-Channel protest

They were joined by campaigners from Greenpeace, Bloom and Pleine Mer, with warnings the fishing practices are “threatening livelihoods and destroying the marine environment”. Fishing boats from both countries, who have been at loggerheads over post-Brexit fishing licences, met in the Bassurelle Sandbank marine protected area, (MPA) halfway between France and the UK. They held talks at sea to share their experiences of how industrial fishing has destroyed fishing livelihoods and coastal communities in both the UK and France.

Fishermen held banners showing mutual solidarity and even exchanged gifts to illustrate the new and growing partnership between small-scale French and UK fishermen.

There were also protests held in major northern France fishing port Boulogne-sur-mer, with Greenpeace local groups displaying banners in their hometowns.

A joint Declaration of Emergency, which was launched by Greenpeace last year, has been signed by the fishermen, as well as all three campaign groups involved in Monday’s protests.

This calls for fly-shooters and supertrawlers to be banned from large swathes of UK and French waters.

Greenpeace warned industrial fishing vessels including supertrawlers and fly-shooters “continue to harm the long term health of fish stocks and damage sensitive marine areas”.

UK and French fishermen have now joined forces to urge the Government to introduce a ban on “destructive industrial vessels” that would save jobs and protect the marine environment.

Fiona Nicholls, a Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner, said: “It’s been so heartening to see fishermen from France and the UK come together with campaigners and find that we all have so much more in common than we thought.

“On both sides of the Channel, fishing jobs are disappearing and politicians continue to ignore coastal communities.

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“Instead, they’re listening to the big businesses operating destructive industrial fishing boats and continuing to allow the most harmful forms of fishing at the expense of small-scale fishing fleets.

She added: “These fleets provide the vast majority of fishing jobs, but they’re slowly disappearing as industrial fishing continues to harm the health of our oceans and destroys coastal communities.

“The UK government must end destructive industrial fishing in all of the UK’s protected areas, and it has the perfect chance to do so at the end of this year, when the fishing licenses for all vessels come under review.”

A Bloom spokesperson said: “Fly shooting embodies the technological hyper-efficiency of industrial fishing and the destruction it brings.

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“On top of devastating marine ecosystems, fly shooting dismantles the social tissue around coasts, eradicates artisanal know-how and kills the sustainable alternative that is small-scale fishing.

“The death of the fish cooperative in Dunkirk, completely ignored by politicians, was the direct consequence of electric fishing.

“We can’t afford to let that happen again.”

The latest protests come after Boris Johnson’s Government banned bottom trawling in four UK protected areas.

Greenpeace described this as a “welcome step in the right direction” as it shows there is a “political appetite for change”.

But the Government has been urged to “show more ambition” to take action and “protect fishing jobs and our oceans before it’s too late”.