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'We have to find a solution': French react to fishing ban in the Bay of Biscay

Since Monday morning fishing boats have been forced to dock in the Bay of Biscay for a month in an effort to protect dolphins.

It is the first time fishing industry workers have been confined to port since 1945.

Experts estimate that about 9000 dolphins die in the Bay of Biscay every year after being caught in fishing gear by accident.

Despite financial compensation of up to 80 per cent of sales, fishermen and women are worried and fear that, in the long term, the entire industry will be out of work.

According to the Comité National des Pêches, 70 per cent of boats are affected by the ban -  that's 450 vessels and 9000 people working in the fishing industry.

For consumers, it's also feared the price of fish will rise. In Les Sables-d`Olonne, in Vendée, fishmongers are worried:

"It's our last day with a bit of volume, fish that we won't see for a month, even though we're in the middle of the season for sea bass and sole. They're talking about food sovereignty, but what's going to happen? We're all going to turn to imports," said fishmonger Christelle Biboneau.

"Sole, hake, monkfish may fetch around 10 euros, like hake, which can go up to 15 euros," warned Fishmonger Guillaume Quentin.

Town crier, Cyril Baudin is concerned not just for the market, but for people who transport the fish: "They didn't think about us," he said. "The law was passed in two stages, without any thought for what would happen to us in the future".

Fishermen protest with placard " Government + NGOs equals death of small-scale fishing.
Fishermen protest with placard " Government + NGOs equals death of small-scale fishing. - Bob Edme/AP

In La Rochelle, fishermen on the Jeannot fishing boat worked until the end of the day on Sunday, before returning to port where they will remain docked for a month.

"There are categories of boats that fish for dolphins and there are categories that don't fish for dolphins at all," points out fisherman, Raymond Millet.

"Let us work, that's all. We don't need the money (...) And next year, will it be two months? Three months? At last, you'll be spending time at home collecting subsidies!" said another fisherman, Raymond Millet.

But some customers in Les Sables-d`Olonne agree with the measure: "We have to preserve the dolphins, there's no reason to kill them like this," one said.

"We have to find solutions, because of course we have to protect the dolphins, but we also have to protect our fishermen, who have a hard life," another added.