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in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, in the nets of fishermen, less fish and more waste

Find our series: “This way the presidential”


At the Saint-Jean-de-Luz-Ciboure auction, this Tuesday morning, the fridges are almost empty.

Bertrand Lapègue/ “South West”

The previous week, Didier and his crew brought in an unexpected catch in their nets: 400 kg of wriggling anchovies. Lack of luck, the anchovy fishery is closed until 1er March, “biological arrest”. “We have no right to sell in this case, he regrets. I gave to friends. If we could have sold, we would have won, a good day. »

Jojo Larramendy passes by, booted up to his knees to check that his little 8-meter is safe from the looming storm. “The same thing happened to me, he says, an accidental catch last summer, I brought back a bluefin tuna, huge in the nets. I don’t have a tuna license. If I return with it and get checked, the fine will be so high that I would lose my boat. The fish went back to the water. »

On a human scale, that of their own lives, the fishermen of Saint-Jean-de-Luz have seen a decrease not only in the number of boats moored in the port – “about sixty in the 1990s, Jojo breathes and only 30 today hui” – but also, the amount of fish in their nets. “Right now, I’m fishing hake for example, he continues, four years ago, we brought back 100 to 400 kg on good days, now it’s more like 20 to 60 kg…”

The ordeal of seaweed

Didier Martinez adds: “Same for me, some days nothing and, sometimes, 6 tonnes in a week. On the other hand, we bring back toxic algae, liga, plastics, waste of all kinds. Raiders of the sea, this is the image that fishermen send back in the media today, when we are the first to note global warming, pollution and to try to repair it. Since 1991, everyone at the port has taken part in the action initiated by the Itsas Gazteria association “Clean sea, waste at the quay”. “When I was a kid, we threw everything into the sea, admits Didier. We opened our eyes before everyone else. »

“Loopers of the sea, this is the image that fishermen send back in the media today”

The Saint-Jean-de-Luz-Ciboure auction, this Tuesday morning: gurnard, hake, bass, sole, cuttlefish.


The Saint-Jean-de-Luz-Ciboure auction, this Tuesday morning: gurnard, hake, bass, sole, cuttlefish.

Bertrand Lapègue/ “South West”

Thus last summer, the entire crew of the “Airosa”, six strong guys, from tough to bad, was forced to stay in bed for a week. Captain’s story: “Beautiful sea, good weather, everything was fine, we saw a school of slimy algae appear, we tried to avoid it so as not to get caught in the nets, but despite everything, when we got up, the nets are full of them. A few hours later, one after the other, we started having a fever, 39°. We tried to hold on, impossible. We were all HS. The doctor told us that we were poisoned by ostreopsis, the toxic algae and not the Covid as we imagined. He and Jojo tell how they now tape their sleeves to prevent the skin from coming into contact with the liga, the other poison of the Basque coasts.

“When I was a kid, we threw everything into the sea. We opened our eyes before everyone else”

Mikel, the chaplain who walks who water

However, despite the quotas that hold them back, the international economy that sets prices – “you go to sea in the evening, you don’t know at what price your fish will be sold the next day” – competition with gillnetters, the Franco-Spanish factory ships that rake offshore, the administrative constraints that accumulate, despite the reduction in marine resources, they would not give up their place: “I started out as a carpenter, remembers Georges Larramendy, and friends took me on a boat, to fish, I liked it. So I wanted this job, my boat. It was Mikel Epalsa who helped me buy my tub, ”Atxik”. »

“You go to sea at night, you don’t know what price your fish will be sold for the next day”

Mikel Epalsa, a Basque mountain all to himself, 1.90m of power and humanity. He has been chaplain to the fishermen since 1985. A priest and fisherman himself, no sailor can resist him, whom he greets with a thunderous “aupa! “. He is not satisfied with baptizing the boats and two or three prayers to the sea, he wants to see artisanal fishing continue. For this, he participated in founding a small financial support cooperative for fishermen “Baltxan” to help fishermen in the maritime district of Bayonne.

The proliferation of the liga, particularly observed in the bay of Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Ciboure, poses more and more problems for professional fishermen.


The proliferation of the liga, particularly observed in the bay of Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Ciboure, poses more and more problems for professional fishermen.

CIPDMEM

“We helped Jojo, it’s true, but in all, we have accumulated 64 concrete projects: here an engine, there a radar, damage, work to be reimbursed, insurance, in short. It is a loan of 5,000 euros at zero interest, and reimbursements at homeopathic dose, comments Mikel Epalsa. Vocations must be supported so that passion is not lost. Saving artisanal fishing is a project for presidential candidates. Three conditions: the marine resource, knowing it and respecting it, then there is the fair distribution between fishermen and the economy, stopping the price yoyo and the commercialization of the sea.

“Saving artisanal fishing, this is a project for presidential candidates”

Leave the sea clean for our little ones

6 a.m. the next morning, at the Criée de Saint-de-Luz-Ciboure. It’s Tuesday and Christophe Duguet, the boss, has weighed 3 tonnes of fish: gurnard, hake, bass, sole… The fridges were strangely empty. “It’s time, most of the boats haven’t been out. Only three from Capbreton (40) have unloaded here. Yesterday Monday, we weighed 25 tons. »

In the auction room, a dozen buyers showed up. Among them, Gérard, who describes himself as an “intermediary” for Spanish customers. “Nothing,” he blurts out. Yesterday I bought almost two tons! “Waiting for better days, the fishermen of the port of Saint-Jean-de-Luz are bringing back their nets in the wind” If a president, a government better adapts the quotas, leaves us alone with the paperwork and above all starts to clean up the sea ​​to leave it clean for our little ones, so yes I vote! »

The port of Saint-Jean-de-Luz-Ciboure

1,200 fishermen in 1960. 120 today. 30 boats under 12 meters. Practice of “small fishing” for the day and coastal fishing over two days. Fish caught: sardines, anchovies, horse mackerel, bluefin tuna, mackerel, gurnard, hake, bass, sole, cuttlefish. Saint-Jean-de-Luz-Ciboure fish auction: first in New Aquitaine and fifth in France. 8,400 tonnes of fish sold per year.

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