January 25, 2018 / 8:33 AM / 3 months ago

Fishermen block port of Calais in protest over pulse fishing

LILLE, France (Reuters) - French fishermen blockaded Calais on Thursday, halting shipping movements at France’s busiest passenger port and a major entry point to Europe for British goods, in protest at losses inflicted by the practice of electric pulse fishing.

FILE PHOTO: View of cross-Channel ferries in the port of Calais, France, after Britain's referendum results to leave the European Union were announced June 24, 2016. Picture taken June 24, 2016 REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

A small flotilla of fishing vessels set out at dawn from Boulogne and others were expected to join from Dunkirk, said fisherman Stephane Pinto.

“The Port of Calais is closed due to French fisherman blockade. Currently no ship movements in the port,” P&O Ferries Freight said on Twitter.

A Calais port spokeswoman said negotiations were underway and that port authorities expected the blockade would be lifted by midday.

Some two million lorries, tens of thousands of coaches and 10 million passengers pass through Calais every year, Jean-Marc Puissesseau, the port’s general manager, told Reuters earlier this month as he detailed the risks to trade flows from Brexit.

Pinto said the protest was over losses caused by some countries’ practice of electric pulse fishing. French fishermen say pulse fishing in demarcated zones is depleting fish numbers. The technique uses electrodes to emit electric waves, stunning fish which then float upwards and are scooped up by giant nets.

“We’re at our wits ends. We feel abandoned,” said Pinto, who together with his colleagues already frets that Britain’s exit from the European Union will end their access to British waters.

The European Parliament on Jan. 16 voted in favour of banning commercial pulse fishing. Opponents say it is tantamount to putting a taser gun in the water.

Supporters, including The Netherlands which has issued permits to about 80 of its trawlers, say the technique reduces unwanted bycatch and avoids ploughing nets along the seabed.

The European Parliament vote was advisory but means the issue will now be debated with the European Commission and members states and could lead to legislation.

Reporting by Pierre Savary in Lille with additional reporting by Richard Lough and Matthias Blamont in Paris; Editing by William Maclean

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