Net fishing, the only cause of the decline in salmon in the Adour?

Net fishing, the only cause of the decline in salmon in the Adour?
Net fishing, the only cause of the decline in salmon in the Adour?

DSince Monday 1is July, midnight, the salmon net fishing campaign is closed in the maritime Adour. A decision taken by the seventeen professional fishermen in the sector, after having informed the State management services. The cause is the low return of these migratory fish.

Initially scheduled for July 31, the early closure of net fishing is essential for the preservation of the species as well as the activity of fishermen. “We wish to demonstrate our commitment to the management of this species by limiting our impact,” mentions the Committee…

DSince Monday 1is July, midnight, the salmon net fishing campaign is closed in the maritime Adour. A decision taken by the seventeen professional fishermen in the sector, after having informed the State management services. The cause is the low return of these migratory fish.

Initially scheduled for July 31, the early closure of net fishing is essential for the preservation of the species as well as the activity of fishermen. “We wish to demonstrate our commitment to the management of this species by limiting our impact,” mentions the Interdepartmental Committee for Maritime Fisheries and Marine Farming Pyrénées-Atlantiques/Landes (CIDPMEM 64-40) in a press release.

It is thanks to their monitoring system in partnership with Migradour (an association providing data on migratory fish in the Adour and Nivelle basins and coastal currents), that the profession was alerted about its exploitation levels. The objective is simple: adjust the fishing effort “in the hope that the castillons (salmon that return to fresh water to reproduce after spending more than a year at sea, Editor’s note) migrating in July will be present in large numbers” when the season reopens.

Highly regulated in France, but authorized in certain areas, salmon net fishing scandalizes associations for the protection of aquatic environments. What they are demanding: its definitive ban. Impossible to imagine for professionals in the field.

Natura 2000 Areas

The war between professional fishermen and aquatic environment protection associations is not new. Faced with these incessant tensions, the prefect of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region introduced a migratory fish management plan (Plagepomi) for the Adour basin for the period 2022-2027 on December 28, 2021. However, two years later, the measure has been suspended. While the associations are celebrating this victory, the fishermen are upset and worried. “It’s a shame… We’re making efforts, “says Jean-Yves Elissalde, professional sailor and president of the Marins-Pêcheur Adour. We are the only ones to have respected their specifications, but for these associations, it is still not enough.”

“We are in a Natura 2000 zone,” repeat the latter, such as Sepanso. An argument that is worthless according to Jean-Yves Elissalde: “Natura 2000 deals with the management of sites and not fishing.”

Faced with these multiple attacks, the “salmon” case will be brought before the administrative court of Pau in May 2023. The request for a total ban on salmon net fishing will be rejected by the prosecution.

“Shad net fishing was banned for over ten years in Gironde so that the species could proliferate. Today, it is still in decline,” emphasizes Jean-Yves Elissalde. “Fishing is a bit like the tree that hides the forest.”

An example among others. The CIDPMEM 64-40 thus strives to demonstrate that this professional activity is far from being the only one responsible for these low returns of migratory species. Dams, water quality and quantity, degradation of breeding areas, parasitism, “are all factors that can affect spawners in breeding migration, the efficiency of reproduction or the survival of larvae and juveniles”, maintains the CIDPMEM 64-40. Added to this is the oceanic part which constitutes a “black box” of the salmon life cycle. Unknown fattening areas, the presence of nearby farms (on the outskirts of Norway and Ireland) which lead to an increase in parasitism, important elements to analyze in the ecosystem management of the species.

Some local politicians remain convinced of the opposite. Last May, David Habib, MP for the third constituency of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, tabled a bill against net fishing in the Adour. The bill “aims to combat the dramatic decline in the number of these migratory fish, which reproduce in [les] gaves of the Pyrenean foothills. It is the practice of massive fishing, with nets, particularly at the level of the Adour estuary, which explains such a regression”, states the elected official peremptorily, paying little attention to the scientific observations presented by the CIDPMEM 64-40.

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