Alain Le Sann : – « I’m a little frightened »

Alain Le Sann – L’Encre de Mer

Alain Le Sann – in GB

Alain Le Sann is the founder of the international festival Fishermen of the world : why to have created this festival, and why your presence at Slow Fish in Terra Madre ?

« By creating the festival, we wanted to restore the image of the fishermen which is not the one that we often give and we especially wanted to refocus the debate of the fishing on the fishermen, to leave the human aspect, rather than that of the resource, even if there are problems of resources… And what interested me in Slow Fish is that this approach was truly privileged in all the debates, with a strong presence of representatives of small scale fishermen, and we centered well the debate on this question  : How can the fishermen take in hand their fate? Because at first the question of the fishing is not the one of the future of this common resource, but how the fishermen are going to share it in a fair way. If we take the problem only under the environmental aspect, the conservation of the sea or other, which is a necessity, we are going to make press the responsibility of this restoration of the environment on the very sailors. And when we make it, it is always the weakest which carry the weight of this restoration : we see it when we set up marine areas protected without integrating this human size, the consequences for people.
When we forbade dérivants gill nets, fishermen’s whole communities were annihilated. Even if to forbid the practice of a machine is needed , we do not reconvert like that a whole culture, because they are men, money, traditions : these methods are to be banished thus totally. And I think that it is really what we heard,  that I heard during this meeting from this point of view, it satisfied me. »

In what way have the small scale fishermen things to learn to us ?

If we take the care of listening to what the fishermen live, it is what we are going of course to hear, they know what’s is necessary to maintain the resource, because they are the best sentinels of the ocean. It is them who live everyday this degradation and thus, if we are not attentive to the way they perceive things, we press on their future and we threaten them. And if we listen to all around the world, it is what we are going to hear. Yet, today, we have a prevailing view which is the speech of the NGO environmentalists who assert clearly that they advance in hierarchy of the objectives, the environmental objective. For me, it is not healthy for a society to go in this direction, although we know that it is necessary to protect the environment, and that the main actors of this conservation will be the fishermen themselves. I studied the history of the environment and through for example the question of the deforestation, we notice that in 19th century, when there were floods, we accused the mountain dwellers while the main cause was the activity of valleys by the urbanization, the creation of roadbeds for the railroads which cut the traffic of waters. It is always too easy to carry  the responsability of what goes badly, we find scapegoat and we avoid seeing what we are responsible.Today, a good part of the degradation of the resources of the oceans results not from the overfishing, even if this overfishing exists, but of the degradation of the bases of the life in the oceans, with the destruction of the plankton, the pollutions of any origins which are pollutions which come from the earth, and from the logic of development of the earth : that’s what necessary to question. Moreover, by concerning all the responsibility the overfishing, we avoid asking this question.

The Fao –  the UN Food and agriculture Organization – in Terra Madre and its new position in favour of the fishing, is it important ?

Yes, of course, because I began to be really interested in the questions of the fishing in 1984, after the conference of the FAO in Rome to discuss the future of the sea, from which the fishermen were excluded. About thirty years later, the FAO puts a lot finally into a program of reflection to how to protect the future of the small-scale fishing : yes, it is a reversal ! It is the reversal, which took time, but it is something which goes in the right direction. But it is not important to make things changing, because later, you have mobilize on-the-spot , to organize, to press on the political choices, and all this often takes decades, but I think that we are in the right direction.

The Fao on one side, but Europe of the other one… and there, it is even less simple ?

I am a little frightened by what prepares us this reform. On one hand, Maria Damanaki absolutely wants to liberalize the access to the resources, it is what frightens me…On the other hand,  what also frightens me is this position of the NGO environmentalists who are congealed in a logic of defense of a small narrow fishing….which they defined in a very restrictive way, as if by chance moreover in the same way as Maria damanaki. It is the small boat which is less than ten or twelve meters, which excludes the dragged, dragged machines, the trying to pick up : if we consider that a ten meter boat, which drags a trying to pick up or a trawl net, is an industrial tool, risk of limiting the small fishing to it this small small-scale fishing – that it is besides necessary to defend in a absolute way –  is to leave open fields on the majority of the oceans with the industrial and liberalized dynamics. And it is in the sense that I say that in a way, NGO environmentalists who defend this option there, are in collusion of Damanaki, even if they are in collusion in a naive way. I am maybe hard, but I believe that it is necessary to say things.

When the small-scale fishing will disappear, is it the memory of a respectful practice of the environnement that will delete?

Yes, these are cultures, stories of lives which are swept, and also realities. I always knew small scale fishermen, which stayed in the coast…but there must have a sharing, so that those who stay in the coast can defend their resources, and those who go to the wide have the means to go there in a correct way.Thus, limiting small scale fishing  to a ten meter boat, is not the reality
During the meeting of Slow Fish , there was a fisherman of the Pacific Coast of the United States, which with a twenty meter boat, fish in the middle of the Pacific, for the tuna in the line. It is the same history as our fishermen of the Ile de Groix, that went in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and who now do not go there any more, because we forbade them dérivants gill nets. They chose to change technique, we could maybe regret it, but so it is : we killed a history, a dynamics, in the name of principles which we generalized. Sure it was needed to regulate dérivants gill nets, but we managed to forbid dérivants gill nets to go to fish for the sardine: where do we go? I ask the question: what is the difference between a gill net and a propped up net ? That goes fishing in the same way ! Thus, if we forbid gill nets, it is necessary to forbid all the nets ! It is obvious that if we so think, we see well the nonsense of this logic there.

What about  the resource, today ?

It is necessary to distinguish things: there are many places where the coastal resources are threatened by industrial fishings, in particular off Africa and off heights of places, but what we notice in Europe is a rather fast restoration of numbers of resources, in particular the wide. so, the problem settles much more for the coastal resources, for two reasons today : on one hand, the pressures of the pollution and all the urban and other pressures, which degrade the coastal environment, on the other hand, the number of fishermen ! It is exactly the contradiction: if we make some defense of this small fishing the absolute, we eventually concentrate the fishing on this coastal zone and these are already saturated places. Two three days ago, a fisherman said to me that the resource of the wide is rather well, on the other hand on the coastal zone, it is much more difficult.

Slow Fish worked on a text : did it seem you productive ?

We saw a generalized enough agreement taking shape on a certain number of things, even if there were debates on where stops the small-scale fishing, which is an endless debate. It is the good manifesto which questions certain classic approaches of the NGO. And Slow Food signed the manifesto of Ocean 2012 which is not completely in same state of mind. Thus, I hope that it will pull a debate among NGO environmentalists ! And I think that it is a rare place because the fact that Slow Food places the man in the center of the concerns, is a rather unique place of interface enters NGO environmental – maybe congealed on a little bit narrow positions – and the fishermen who live the other thing. Thus I found that it was a good approach of the reality. »

The 5th edition of the International Festival of Movies  » Fishermen of the World », is from 19 to 24 March of 2913 , this festival created by Alain Le Sann is a place of meetings and exchanges with directors, professionals of the fishing, scientists one of the best places to understand the complexity of the world of the fishing.

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