Francois Hollande, the newly elected president of France, has been warned that he and his government must show “political courage” in their approach to protecting the seas.
The new government has still to announce its position on the proposed reforms of Europe’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) but it was issued a clear challenge by award-winning French actress Melanie Laurent that change and action are needed.
Ms Laurent provides the voice-over for the French version of The End of the Line and in a message read out at a preview screening of the film in Paris she expressed a hope that the practices and policies that have enabled widespread overfishing to take place around Europe will be ended.
“This film is the most important of your life,” she said. “I hope it will lead you to change your habits. It takes political courage to take the necessary decisions. Acting is the only solution.”
Following the special screening at the Lincoln cinema in Paris, members of the invited audience took part in a debate on how fisheries are managed and what needs to be done, including reform ofthe CFP.
Francois Chartier, an oceans campaigner for Greenpeace, said: “The new government will be judged on its ambition, yet it is in terms of its positions on fundamental issues like the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) that this ambition will be evaluated.” He was especially concerned that M Hollande and his government listen to the scientists on what actions are needed to protect marine stocks rather than vested interests.
“Each point of the CFP must be assessed in line with scientific predictions and the needs of the natural world, and not just in response to the lobbying of the fishing industry.”
Ghislain Ghomart, of the Grenelle Environment forum, backed calls for more pressure to be put on the French government to accept reform of the CFP. He was especially concerned that politicians put an end to fishing subsidies and deep sea fishing where slow-growing stocks such as orange roughy have been devastated. He also advocated the creation of marine reserves as a means of protecting fish and other marine wildlife. Charles Clover, author of the book behind the film, called on consumers to change their seafood eating habits to encourage the sale of sustainably sourced species in restaurants and shops. By doing so, he said, consumers would force the fishing industry to fish more sustainably. He said: “Consumption habits can be altered and therefore the fishing industry will be forced to respond by managing fisheries more sustainably. It is up to us, the consumers, to demand that our fish comes from sustainable fisheries.”
Speaking at the event, he announced that more than 70 of the UK and Europe’s top chefs, including several with Michelin stars, have signed up to a series of demands organised by Fish2fork - a legacy project of TEOTL - that Europe’s political leaders push through radical reforms of the CFP.
Among the demands are that discards are halted, quotas are based on scientific assessments of what fish stocks can stand rather than what the fishing lobby can squeeze out of politicians, better labelling is introduced, and that fisheries be managed sustainably.
Chefs who have signed up to the demands include Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, who organised the Fish Fight campaign against discards, and Jamie Oliver.
The French version of The End of the Line will be released on June 6 in time for World Oceans Day and on DVD on June 18.