The Coronavirus means European fishermen are weathering a new kind of storm. With fish markets and seafood restaurants shut down, supply chains broken and large vessels staying in port, thousands of jobs are at risk. So, what are the fishermen doing, and how’s the EU helping to keep the sector afloat?
The French Riviera is unusually quiet. With luxury yachts and cruise vessels forced to stay at port, only artisanal fishermen like Loïc Gourlaouen are still going out to sea. April to June would normally be the busiest time of year, but the pandemic has changed all that. To stay afloat, Loïc has had to adapt to the new normal.
“Our usual clients are restaurants, and we lost them due to the shutdown. Our remaining customers are private individuals. We’ve started delivering fish to most of them. We fish in the morning and do deliveries in the afternoon. That makes for long days at work,” Loïc says.
Despite losing half his turnover, Loïc and fishermen like him, say they feel a duty to keep providing fresh fish to their customers who are stuck at home. Orders are taken by phone.
With delivery on top of going out to sea, the working day can last anywhere from 4am to 9pm. But the fishermen know they are fortunate to still be working. In some parts of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, more than 90% of small fishing vessels have been forced to stop operating because of the pandemic.
Although street markets are closed, fishermen in the southern French town of Antibes have been given permission to sell their catch directly at the port. For those who choose to stay at home, there is compensation for lost income: just one of the emergency measures adopted at EU level to help mitigate the crisis.