He still remembers it. “It was December 23, at 5:38 p.m.,” breathes José Jouneau, president of the Pays de la Loire regional fisheries committee (Corepem). That day, he learned of the decision of the Council of State to ban fishing in the Bay of Biscay for a month, after an appeal filed by environmental organizations warning about the protection of cetaceans. “We are told that we are going to be paid to stay at the dock,” continues Jouneau. “And Merry Christmas!”, we hear in the room where François-Xavier Bellamy listens attentively to around twenty players in the region’s fishing world. A second campaign trip, after his trip to the Oise with farmers, since he was named head of the LR list in the European elections.
This Monday morning in Sables-d’Olonne (Vendée), the dawn is gray and the gloom of the sky has taken over the faces. “We took a firm month,” laments Éric Taraud, a fisherman for 35 years. “Everyone is equipped with cameras and probes to protect the dolphins,” adds Jouneau. And we don't have the right to do our job. All this for an environmental madness.” The aid announced by the government to compensate for a month without fishing will change nothing. “It’s not money that will calm everyone down.” Standards imposed by Brussels, domination of environmental NGOs… If the fishermen are “not going to block the roundabouts”, continues Jouneau, the president of Corepem deplores a “suffering industry”. And, evoking the recent agricultural crisis, he shares this common fight shared by “the producers of the land” and the “producers of the sea”. That, in short, of “those who work” and whom an “all-powerful Europe takes for bandits”. The kind of face-to-face, that of the “small” against the “big”, that the European candidates are trying, each in their own way, to invest a few months before a decisive election.
“What kills fishing and agriculture is making the lives of people who produce impossible, as if production were a dirty word,” says Bellamy, a member of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee since 2019. While deploring the decision of the Council of State: “The dolphin is not an endangered species. Why don’t we get autopsies on cetaceans? How do we know they died in your nets and not before?” Bruno Retailleau, who accompanies him, adds: “I have been witnessing the euthanasia of fishing in Vendée for 30 years! It’s not the dolphins that are disappearing, but the fishermen!” Before giving the floor to the MEP: “A jurisdiction must no longer be able to afford to endanger a sector as strategic as that of fishing. It must therefore be recognized in the law as such.”
Five months before the European elections, Bellamy is betting on a serious campaign. Tedious undertaking when, opposite, its opponents Renaissance and National Rally remain at the top of the opinion surveys and LR stagnates around 8%. “It’s not by walking around a port that you change things,” defends Bellamy, referring to Jordan Bardella’s last trip to Lorient. "What did he do ? What is his record? It’s too easy to get angry to defend your little shop.” As for the “elected Macronists”, “they say they defend your profession in Paris but do the opposite in Brussels!” The mayor of Sables-d'Olonne, Yannick Moreau, believes it is worth insisting: the next electoral deadline is approaching and if "everyone will do what they want in conscience", "there are deputies who are making noise and moss and those who, in the ingratitude and anonymity of the corridors of Brussels, work. To sloganeering MPs, I prefer deserving MPs.”
A tedious undertaking, therefore, unwittingly undermined by one of the interlocutors this Monday morning: “Despite all the French good will, including yours, we arrive at a conclusion of failure today.” Basically, the question is: now that distrust of Brussels is established in the landscape, what to do with it politically? “Europe is here,” says Bellamy. “We have to fight within the institutions, there is no inevitability. The RN welcomed Brexit, the same Brexit which did so much harm to fishing!” Jordan Bardella, Marion Maréchal and soon the idea of the Renaissance candidate... These are Bellamy's opponents. Simple adversaries. The enemy, the real one, is elsewhere. It is the fatalism of those who, no longer believing in the EU, are tempted by the RN vote. It is the fatalism of those who, no longer believing in LR, are tempted by Reconquête!.