Trouble is brewing on the beautiful Somme estuary, the largest in northern France, over the burgeoning population of seals which are vying with local fishermen over fish stocks.
“Enough is enough,” is the motto of the fishermen who took to the waves last week in protest. Tomorrow, they will hold a public meeting in Le Crotoy at the mouth of the river Somme, where 392 common seals were counted this summer. Some 58 seal pups were born in the reproductive season which runs from May to September.
The seals are a major tourist attraction and are protected by law. But they eat about three kilos of fish per day, as well as destroying fishing nets.
Fabrice Gosselin, the president of the local fisherman’s association, says the seal population is “over-protected” but wants to find a “fair middle ground”.
He argues that the seal problem is not just French but Europe-wide; the seals swim as far as Scotland. He is calling for quotas before the seal community reaches “catastrophic” levels. “This issue is going to end up in Brussels,” he says.
His association now claims a total of 90,000 members in northern France, and has the support of fishermen from the UK, Norway and Canada.