Last October, Mr Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France concluded that the “Grenelle de l’Environnemment” forum that he had personally promoted “will remain a milestone in our society’s growing awareness that it cannot continue to live wastefully and that it can no longer ignore the impact of our current lifestyles, production methods and consumption patterns on the future of the planet.” These conclusions emerged after four months of consultations with businesses, NGOs, trade unions, academics, local authorities and government ministries and included the presence and support of José Barroso, President of the European Commission and former US Vice-President and Nobel prize winner Al Gore. Working parties were launched for the study of new legislation and guidance on subjects as varied as: Carbon and waste management, transport, precautionary principles, GMOs, Nuclear and renewable energies, energy efficient buildings and sustainable development.
Various working groups were created during the forum and in particular Group II concerned with the preservation of biodiversity and natural resources.
The work of Group II was to study the development of 10 coastal marine reserves representing 10% of the French territorial waters until 2012 in preparation of the European directive on marine strategy and to prepare a new law governing the sea in order to coordinate proper management of the coast and the ocean integrating all activities such as fishing, dredging and the extraction of minerals.
A working party called “COMOPS 12” has now been created under the supervision of Mr Jerome Bignon, Député to the French National Assembly; this working party is to study the integrated management of the sea and the coastal areas. Representatives of various NGOs together with government agencies and the National Committee of Fisheries (ie: The commercial fishermen) have been invited to be part of the group but NO GROUP MEMBER HAS BEEN NOMINATED TO REPRESENT THE RECREATIONNAL ANGLERS!
And here we go again! Under the excuse of “preserving biodiversity and the stocks of fish along the coast”, this working party is going to study the implementation of a sea angling license, a daily bag limit and the instauration of resting periods for the fish stocks, during which fishing will be prohibited and recreational anglers, major stakeholders in the exploitation and the management of the resource have again not been invited to the debate and the preparation of any new legislation that will affect them directly.
Once again, it has become a case of “attempting to fix the gate once the cows have escaped” and a few organizations representing angling are attempting to react. Of the few, it is important to report the work of the FNPPSF (Fédération Nationale des Pêcheurs Plaisanciers et Sportifs de France) and the FFPM (Fédération Française des Pêcheurs en Mer) who have united under the CNPPM (Conféderation Nationale de la Plaisance et de la Pêche en Mer) representing 30,000 sea anglers and have written to Mr Jean-Louis Borloo, the present Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development. In their letter, the co-Presidents state their surprise and incomprehension in reaction to the fact that Recreational Angling has not been included in the working party of COMOPS 12.
It is also quite interesting to note that no formal reaction has yet been made by the French Tackle Trade although they do have a trade organization known as the GIFAP. It may now however be a little late to attempt to gather strengths and claim representation of the French Recreational Anglers. I interviewed Mr Hubert Guillois, former President of Ragot and organizer of two of the major French Fishing exhibitions about the issue; Mr Guillois actually stated that few in the French trade believed the market could suffer from any unfriendly legislation and that most of the trade didn’t seem to care anyway, although the issue of licenses has been in the making for quite a few years now. He also mentioned that many in the trade didn’t believe in the crisis presently affecting Portugal and that France would never be affected in the same way.
I continue to be amazed by the lack of preparation and organization of our trade when it comes to representation and lobbying. If it comes to the situation where the French will have to face up to a 40% decrease in the Sea Angling market in the first year after implementation of an unfriendly Sea Fishing license scheme like has happened in Portugal in 2007 will they then consider reacting? Or will they be too busy squabbling and worrying about their bottom line to even get organized.
Can we trust any of our trade organizations to represent, promote and defend our sport? It would seem that from the current record this cannot be the case either at National or at European level. With governments in two major European countries considering the introduction of new laws to control our sport, influenced mostly by the commercial fishermen who blame the Anglers for the lack of fish; it maybe time for the creation of a new political body in Europe, with the willpower to unite all anglers, tackle trade, boat manufacturers and other economic agents; freshwater and sea water, fly and game all under one roof because for the non anglers: Its all just fishing!