Controversial Fishing: the Strategies of the Fishing Industry in Response to Institutional Pressures in the Deep-Sea Bottom-Trawling Sector in France.
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Deep-sea bottom trawling ranks among those fishing practices most decried in fisheries science due its long-term impacts on fragile deep-sea ecosystems. The call originating from fisheries scientists and the environmental non-governmental sector has in the past fifteen years or so frequently resonated in the media and reached a large audience impassioned for the protection of the natural environment against human activities. Following these trends, receptive legislators opted for swift and drastic solutions to curtail the intensity of fishing pressures and even end the practice. Were it not for the resistance of the fishing sector and a handful of supportive politicians, deep-sea bottom-trawling may have been banned in Europe as it is already in other parts of the world. Professionals however contest the socio-economic impacts that such measures could have had on a fishing sector already in crisis and plead for the recognition of their efforts to manage fisheries resources with a long-term vision. Anxious about the future of their profession and trade, fishers evolve in a context of intense pressures from environmental groups, rapidly changing winds in policy-making, deep-rooted economic problems and the relatively modern and growing concern that their activity is able to cause serious impacts on marine ecosystems. This raises the question of how fishers perceive and are responding to these issues, but also whether they really are trying to do things differently than earlier times when European fisheries were thought to be inexhaustible. In order to find out, this research pieces together a timeline of events for the period of 2000 to late 2014 and draws from a large extent of data, including over 500 newspaper articles and the accounts of 23 respondents from different circles of stakeholders. The results are an in-depth analysis of the evolution of the strategies and practices of the deep-sea bottom-trawling sector in the context of France, and insights into the social processes and practicalities that can bring an industrial sector to seek to address the impact of its activities on the natural environment.