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French Seiner Fleet Concerned Over Less Access To Atlantic Tuna France, December 21, 12

The president of Orthongel, the French tuna boat owners association, says he is concerned about their lack of fishing access to the Atlantic Ocean and feels the European government could do more to negotiate and maintain fishing agreements with partner countries.
In the latest issue of Panorama magazine, Yvon Riva says the number of agreements that allows the French fleet to fish near the Gulf of Guinea has dropped from 12 to 4 in the past five years. This year alone, for instance, no deal was reached with Gabon, an African nation on the west coast that sits on the equator and provides 20-25% of the French tuna catch.
Riva says it is especially challenging to remain competitive against the Spanish vessels when the access to fishing areas is becoming increasingly difficult. With 22 purse seiners – 13 in the Indian Ocean and 9 in the Atlantic – the French are Europe’s second biggest fleet, after the Spanish who have 50 boats.
Orthongel depends on the European government to negotiate fishing agreements with countries that have rich tuna fishing grounds. But, according to Riva, the political and economic aspirations of the decision-makers do not always match the boat owners’ agenda. He says the fishing companies can negotiate fishing licenses privately with some countries, but “it is still necessary that requests for financial counterparties do not become exorbitant.”
In 2011, the French fleet caught about 105,500 tons of tuna, with the majority (68,500 tons) coming from the Indian Ocean. Riva says the French vessels do not typically operate in the Pacific because that’s where major fishing nations such as Korea fish. He says those fleets can remain at sea for longer than 45 days without returning to port, which exceeds the maximum length of fishing trips set out in the contracts with French crew members. Riva notes some Spanish vessels fish in the Pacific, and Orthongel member company, Sapmer, has mentioned the possibility but gave no details about time or terms.