• The administrative court of Pau has suspended an order authorizing the fishing of certain protected species (shad, lamprey and salmon) in the Landes and Pyrénées-Atlantiques.

  • The NGO Sea Sheapherd, supported by other environmental protection associations, warns that harvesting continues despite this ban.

  • The prefectures of the departments concerned ensure that controls take place and that there is no tolerance with regard to fishing professionals.

Would the prohibition by justice to fish certain threatened species have been a sword stroke in the water?

The last populations of lampreys (endangered species), shads (critically endangered) and salmons (vulnerable) come from the sea to spawn (lay their eggs) in the Adour, a Natura 2000 classified river which crosses notably the Landes and the Pyrénées Atlantiques.

The administrative court of Pau confirmed in an order dated April 22, after a decision in the summer of 2021, the suspension of the prefectural decree authorizing the fishing of lamprey and shad in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques and it added salmon to this list of species whose capture is prohibited in the Landes.

The prefectures ensure that checks take place

"We have people on the spot who document the fact that fishing continues, under the eyes of the OFB (French office for biodiversity) which does nothing", warns Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France, even though during migration, this stops a crucial stage in the life cycle of these species.

"The inspectors of the French Office for Biodiversity apply the decision of the administrative court of Pau and organize, consequently, controls", assures the communication service of the prefecture of Landes, specifying that the actors of fishing have been informed by letter of the suspension of the authorization to take the species concerned.

If checks do take place, they are not necessarily followed by verbalizations, according to information from associations gathered around Sea Shepherd.

The Pyrénées-Atlantiques prefecture also refutes any tolerance towards fishermen: “in application of this decision, professional and amateur freshwater fishing with sea lamprey and shad nets is suspended” .

"The state should guarantee that the law is applied," said the president of Sea Shepherd France.

However, there is an appeal by the Ministry of Ecological Transition before the Court of Cassation to have the ban on fishing for lampreys and shads annulled”.

A few dozen fishermen on the Adour

The Adour is cut in two administratively, falling under marine legislation downstream and river legislation upstream.

"Downstream, nothing has changed because they are not affected by the decision, which is dramatic because obviously the species at the bottom and at the top are the same", explains Philippe Garcia for the association for the defense of aquatic environments. .

It is difficult to know what the impact has been on the river side since the fishing declarations will not be known next year.

But Philippe Garcia noted the presence of many boats with driftnets and had bailiffs' reports made.

There are about thirty river fishermen, generally farmers who live next to the Adour.

With the 17 that are on the sea side, they annually take about five tonnes of salmon per year, 10 to 20 tonnes of large shad and two tonnes of sea lamprey, for which the figures have plummeted.

"Fishing removes about 40% of the salmon that come up (listed in counting stations)", reports Philippe Garcia.

This salmon caught in the Adour is sold at exorbitant prices, sometimes up to 100 euros per kilo, at the start of the season in May.

Aware that fishermen cannot give up their livelihood overnight, the associations are trying to convince the administration to provide compensation.

soon too late

We know that the lamprey is condemned to disappear almost inevitably and the shad, whose population was estimated at 300,000 in the 1990s, is not far from experiencing the same fate, with around 5,000 individuals today.

The future of salmon is "clouded by the fish farming, artificial by definition, on the Gave de Pau", nuances Philippe Garcia, but we know that on the Gave d'Oloron, the only one to carry salmon, it flirts with its retention limits.

"When we exceed a threshold, when we exaggerate, we no longer allow nature to go back, it's an irreversible threshold", warns Philippe Garcia, recalling that at sea, salmon are subject to other factors of mortality such as the rise in water temperature. 

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