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The French national committee of inland professional fishers (Conapped)

Fisherman on the River Gironde © J. IglesiaThe professional inland fisheries sector in France today has about 430 fishers: 347 inland river fishers, 26 journeymen and 57 sea fishers, the latter carrying out their activity in the mixed waters in river estuaries. They all belong to 11 associations approved by the ministry of sustainable development: Seine-Normandy, Rhine, Loire-Brittany and the Brittany watercourses, Saône and Haut-Rhône, the Alpine lakes (lakes Geneva, Bourget and Annecy), Garonne-Dordogne, Adour, Gironde, Loire-Atlantique, Franche-Comté and for the lower stretches of the River Rhone, the Rhône-Aval-Méditerranée.
These associations are represented within the nationwide organization, the French national committee of inland professional fishers, [comité national de la pêche professionnelle en eau douce] otherwise referred to as Conapped.

Formed on 10th March 2008 with the support of the Ministry of Ecology within the scope of the Water Act, Conapped is the representative organization of professional fishers who fish in French water catchment basins (estuaries, lakes and watercourses). Its board of directors has twenty-two members and is currently chaired by Philippe Boisneau, professional fisher and vice-chairman of the association for the Loire-Brittany basin.

Acting in its capacity as intermediary with public authorities nationwide, the Ministries of Sustainable Development and Agriculture, the French National Agency for Water and Aquatic Environments (Onema), and France Agrimer, Conapped monitors files handled by national authorities (the National Water Agency with its hydrological and fishing monitoring commissions, which gives recommendations on the amendments made to inland fisheries regulations, the national PCB elimination advisory committee, the national eel monitoring committee, etc.). Conapped also participates in the strategy guidance committee for the French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB) and the council specialized in seafood, aquaculture and professional inland fishery products.

Fisherman in the Bas-Rhône © N. Gauthier

It has many different missions:

  • Representing and promoting the activities of professional river and sea fishers.
  • Assisting in the organization of the profession.
  • Carrying out economic and social actions.
  • Participating in the preservation of aquatic environments.
  • Contributing to the balanced management of resources and the improvement of production conditions.
  • Disseminating know-how.
  • Providing technical support to the profession.
  • Contributing to scientific and economic studies.
  • Working alongside scientific institutes: French National Museum of Natural History, IRSTEA, Ifremer, CNRS, INRA, universities.
  • Participating in discussions on regulatory measures.
  • Informing its members on the latest developments in the profession.

Actions currently underway:

  • Adding value to abundant species (lamprey, catfish, mullet) and invasive species (crayfish).
  • Setting up partnerships to protect certain species (the eel with EDF and Indicang).
  • Organisation of eel restocking network.
  • Setting up partnerships for sustainable and responsible fishing with the WWF.
  • Recommendations for fishing techniques for sustainable development (good practice guide) in partnership with the Cnpmem.
  • Organisation of training sessions for fishing with a scientific approach.
  • Actions to raise awareness with regard to wearing a personal flotation device (PFD).
  • Participation in the definition and implementation of the national strategy on migratory fish (Stranapomi).
  • Establishing a European organisation for professional fishers of inland waters.

Becoming a professional fisher

Fisherman on the River Rhine © S. SicotFishery rights (leases and licences) are issued by the State, territorial councils or any other owner of fishery rights with the allocation and renewal of lots and professional fishing licences taking place every five years. They are submitted for review by departmental technical commissions (commissions techniques départementales – CTD) and water catchment commissions for professional fresh water fishing.

As soon as the professional inland fisher has obtained his lot or licence, he must then register with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry's centre for business formalities (centre de formalités des entreprises - CFE), then with the mutual social security service for the protection of the farming population in France, the Mutualité Sociale Agricole (MSA). Then it is the moment to register with the professional fishers' association (association des pêcheurs professionnels - AAPPED) in the place where the fishing activity is to be carried out. Cost of membership includes subscription to the AAPPED and Conapped, as well as the charges to be paid to the water agency.

"All professional inland fishers must subscribe to the approved departmental or interdepartmental association of professional inland fishers in whose area of jurisdiction they carry out their fishing activity and where they hold the fishery rights" (Article R434-39 of the French Environmental Code).
Also, professional river fishers seeking subscription to the approved association of professional inland fishers must give an undertaking (Article R434-40 of the French Environmental Code):

  • to participate in fishery management and to keep a fishing log,
  • to allocate at least 600 hours per annum to professional inland fishing.

Journeymen must also subscribe to the association under the same conditions. The status of professional fisher is acquired when these formalities are accomplished. The fishing activity may not begin before the commencement of the lease or licence.

Marketed species

Arctic char © M. Dumas

French professional fishers market about thirty species of fish.
These fall into four broad categories:

  • freshwater species: white fish (bleak, carp, roach, bream, barbel), pike, perch, pike-perch, catfish, crayfish.
  • lake species: coregonus, lake trout, Arctic char, burbot.
  • large migratory species (or amphihaline species): shad, lamprey, salmon, eel, mullet.
  • marine species present in estuaries: white shrimp, common shrimp, bass, meagre.

In 2009, overall catches made in professional inland fisheries were estimated at about 1,200 metric tons for sales of nearly 10.5 million euros.
Each professional inland fisher declares his total catch in a monthly log which is then collected by the national agency monitoring fishing using fishing gear (Suivi National de la Pêche aux Engins - SNPE), which is a department run by the French National Agency for Water and Aquatic Environments (Office National de l'Eau et des Milieux Aquatiques - Onema).

Marketing channels

The professional fishers have several marketing channels through which they can sell their products:

  • Direct sale to individuals on the quayside, straight from the boat, or in the local markets or their shop premises.
  • Sale to restaurants and caterers.
  • Semi-wholesale and wholesale: fish markets (shops, hypermarkets and supermarkets); wholesale fishmongers.
  • Live sale – there are three sectors particularly interested in live fish:
    • pond fish farmers looking for spawners.
    • recreational fishing sector to maintain fish stock.
    • managers working on species rehabilitation programmes.

Some fishers have established a thriving fish processing activity. They develop recipes to market their products in various preserved forms: tinned, vacuum-packed, frozen, smoked and even ready-to-heat dishes such as quiches and fish pies. From their professional kitchens that meet European health standards come fish mousse for tapas, cream of crayfish soup, fish soups, preserved lamprey cooked in red Bordeaux wine....
Some eel fishers also have smokehouses. The added value is unquestionable: these products account for up to 50 % of the sales of the fishers who process their catches.

Not just fishers

The professional fishers are not only fishermen and women. Indeed, they participate in large scale management plans: fish ranching in the Alpine lakes, building up the stock of salmon in the Adour, Indicang – the eel dashboard for the Loire, tagging and recapture of silver eels in the Loire, etc. Nature conservation associations, and especially WWF France, acknowledge the major role they play in the management of the environment.

Isabelle Autissier (WWF France's president) and Philippe Boisneau (Conapped's president) signing the partnership agreement in October 2011

They are increasingly called upon to provide numerous services:

  • Scientific fishing.
  • Rescue fishing, when draining lakes and reservoirs.
  • Fishing to control stock levels with the authorization of public river administrations and at the request of owners of private stretches of water.