Marseille port catches fish license fight

Written by Staff Writer, By: Elizabeth Landau, CNN

Workers from the French port of Marseille have started a row over a lucrative fishing license on the western bank of the Rhone River which is currently disputed.

On January 24, 35 fishermen protested, stopping trains at the Port of Marseille and blocking the port’s motorway for several hours, causing commuter and commercial delays, local media reported.

Diving fisherman Jean-Jacques Cua, who is among those involved in the standoff, accuses the French Ministry of Agriculture of not enforcing a ban on exporting the fish that the port specialises in, and says his license is about to expire.

The French-Moroccan navy fishing license row. Credit: @Abidal56/Twitter

While the southern bank of the Rhone is reserved for commercial fishing, the northern end is reserved for an experimental zone for both the French Navy and Moroccan Royal Navy — a competition Cua and his colleagues have not entered, as they fear that the associated quotas could hinder their trade, according to the Facebook page of the French Union of Seafood Fishermen.

“We feel cheated,” Cua told France Info radio.

This is not the first time Cua and his colleagues have faced off with the French government. In 2010, he told French media he had one week to earn enough money to pay the operating costs of his boat, ship, electrical engine and fuel.

He launched a court case against the French Minister of Agriculture at the time, Christiane Taubira, and won a court ruling saying that French authorities did not have the right to refuse any marine license renewal. Taubira subsequently used the judgment to limit access to such licenses.

Cua was the last fisherman standing when he asked President François Hollande to intervene in 2016 over declining fish stocks, claiming that “two-thirds of the best fishing grounds in the world are in France.” He resigned his fishing license after three years when the dispute remained unresolved.

Workers from the port of Marseille board a train that was stopped in the port by fishermen protesting over fishing rights, on January 24, 2019. Credit: Jean-Pascal Belet/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Marseille port suffered a similar clash with local fishermen in 2015, when they demanded more licenses, leading to the destruction of the port’s shipping crane, according to France Info.

In late January, the Federation of French Fishermen became the latest group to protest over French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s plan to tighten fishing quotas for European countries by 15%. Several public holidays later, the coalition government announced a price freeze on quotas until 2021.

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