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Lamprey fishing threatened on the Garonne: “A disaster for the economy and tradition”

Vincent Desqueyroux warns of the ban on lamprey fishing, “a danger for the economy and tradition”. (©MrLescourege)

“When you go and eat a Bordeaux lamprey at the Flying Pig, at Darroze in Langon, or in Bordeaux restaurants, it’s an institution. We have to fight. It’s our traditions, our trades, it’s our life on the river, our pride that are at stake.” This cry from the heart is that of Vincent Desqueyroux, one of the 35 fishermen of the Garonne in Preignac, near Langon (Gironde). With his boat and his net, he fishes the old way. Part of its income comes from fishing, and especially lamprey fishing, which risks being banned on the Garonne by 2023.

“The state will have to ban lamprey fishing”

On Thursday, May 5, 2022, the Court of Bordeaux rendered its judgment following the attack by the association Défense des Milieux Aquatiques (associated with the collective defender of catfish) of the decree regulating professional and amateur fishing on the Garonne and the Dordogne. “In the name of the precautionary principle, the State will have to ban lamprey fishing”, announces the approved association of professional freshwater fishermen in the Gironde (AAPPEDG).

“We do selective fishing, not industrial”

A disaster for the 35 fishermen of Garonne and Dordogne. In the batch, Vincent Desqueyroux is indignant:

For them, we destroy the entire Garonne, we catch everything… except that the net does not stay in the water for more than a quarter of an hour and each time it is picked up, all the fish caught accidentally are released immediately. Salmon, shad… And they’re alive! That’s why we don’t understand. We do selective fishing, not industrial. We are artisanal fishermen and we fish with our arms, our hands and a boat. There is nothing dangerous.

Vincent DesqueyrouxProfessional fisherman on the Garonne.

The fisherman is annoyed. For him, the profession is in danger, the local economy too, as well as the ancestral traditions transmitted by the elders.

“The Bordeaux lamprey was there before the cannelé”

“We also cultivate our tradition, argues Vincent Desqueyroux. When I take people on walks with me, I help them discover the profession, the Garonne, everything we learned from the old hands. It is our cultural heritage, and I fight to keep our traditions. Today, they want to ban us from fishing. It’s a whole local economy that will collapse: the restaurateurs, the canneries, the 35 professional fishermen of Gironde and Dordogne as well as their families… The Bordeaux canelé is an entity of the region, well the lamprey à la bordelaise too . And she was even there before the cannelé! »

The fishermen, guardians of the Garonne

Present at all events on the river, the fishermen control, enumerate, list the fish. They help clean the river and play a major role during floods. The latter work closely with the town halls when there is an emergency. The dykes, the species, the tides… They know all the complexities of the Garonne. “If there is a problem, we intervene. When there are trees to unblock, we clean up, when we are needed during the floods, we are there”, adds the fisherman from Preignac.

Today, for some fishermen, lamprey fishing represents “50% of their income”, assures Lisa Mas of the AAPPEDG. Without it, their economic model collapses.

“If tomorrow there is no more fishing, they stop everything”, alerts the marine, estuarine and river fisheries project manager. The fishermen’s association hopes that, between now and the rectification of the fishing regulations in September 2023, the State will counter-attack and dare to include, once again, lamprey fishing in the regulations. Otherwise, it’s the end. ” There is a big risk that the state no longer wants to be attackedand therefore, that the government decides to proscribe this practice”, worries the association.

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The association of aquatic environments points out the rarity of the lamprey

Before the court, the argument put forward by the association of aquatic environments is the rarity of the lamprey. In fact, she hopes that this fishing will be prohibited in order to preserve the species in the rivers.

In January, the association had already welcomed the decision of the Dordogne prefecture:

Today, we note and welcome the decision of the prefecture of the Dordogne which, even before the decision of the judgment expected in 2022, decided to add the sea lamprey and the river lamprey to the list of species prohibited from fishing in this department.

Association for the defense of aquatic environments.

“We don’t understand this argument because we had a very good season on the Garonne. We do not do intensive fishing with our boats. We are not the problem. Our problem is catfish. When we open the catfish, we discover four or five lampreys, it’s not us who put them in, ”scans Vincent Desqueyroux.

Namely that, for two years in April, fishermen have been organizing lamprey transfers (1,000 in the Ciron for example) to preserve the species and help restocking. But the efforts no longer seem sufficient…

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