Brexit Leaves French Fishermen On The Hook : The Salt French fishermen in Brittany and Calais say up to 80 percent of their haul is from British waters. Many fear financial ruin if their access is restricted after Brexit.

Brexit Leaves French Fishermen On The Hook

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Next a story about what Brexit could mean for French fishermen. When the U.K. leaves the European Union, the effect on businesses will go far beyond Britain. NPR's Joanna Kakissis brings us this story from the French coast.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: The city of Boulogne-sur-Mer just across the English Channel from Britain is France's No. 1 fishing port. The fishing boats here get most of their catch in British waters. And they bring their haul back to a very busy seaside market.

One of the most popular fish that they catch is sole, which is all over the fish market here today. It's in practically every stall, and everybody's buying it.

Marie-Laure Fontaine is supervising one of the 20 fishmonger stalls here. She's almost out of sole and cod.

MARIE-LAURE FONTAINE: (Through interpreter) Sole and cod and turbot - we get the sole from British waters, and this is a worry.

KAKISSIS: A worry because Britain has voted to leave the European Union. And when the divorce is final, the U.K. will also leave what's called the Common Fisheries Policy. That would make the U.K. an independent coastal state and restrict the catch of French fishermen like Jeremy Devogel, who nets 70 percent - that's 7-0 percent - of his catch in English waters. He frowns as he lowers metal crates for fish onto his new boat.

JEREMY DEVOGEL: (Through interpreter) I've fished for 10 years and recently bought a bigger boat specifically to work in English waters. I'm more than 300,000 euros in debt, and I'm so stressed.

KAKISSIS: So is Stephane Pinto. He's been fishing since 1987 and is vice president of the regional fishing committee.

STEPHANE PINTO: (Through interpreter) Eighty percent of our fish come from the British side, so that makes up 80 percent of our revenue as well. Take that away and the regional economy takes a big hit.

KAKISSIS: I meet Pinto as he and his crew unload their latest catch. Most of it's sole and roussette, a type of dogfish. They sort the fish into containers packed with ice. The catch is sold at dawn the next morning to customers like restaurant owner Laurent Wacogne.

LAURENT WACOGNE: My philosophy is to follow the sea. And for me it's very important to buy the fish in Boulogne.

KAKISSIS: He only serves fish caught by Boulogne fishermen at his high-end restaurant, La Plage. Without this fish, he says, he'll go out of business. In the U.K., Barrie Deas from the National Federation of Fishermen's Organizations says he understands, but...

BARRIE DEAS: EU fleets catch about four times as much in U.K. waters as U.K. vessels catch in EU waters. I think it's right for the French to expect quite a lot of change.

KAKISSIS: But Britain may not welcome all that change, says French fishing company manager Christophe Collin.

CHRISTOPHE COLLIN: We think that the European community will tax quite a lot of the English product, the English fish.

KAKISSIS: Which will make it harder for the English to sell their fish to Europe. Collin is based in the port of Le Guilvinec in the busy fishing region of Brittany on the west coast. He fears that after Brexit French fishermen will battle each other, crowded into a narrower band of sea. Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, reporting from the French coast.

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