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Fishing strike across Europe gathers ground

Latest update : 2008-05-31

A strike by European fishermen held firm on Saturday as fleets in Spain, France, Portugal and Italy protested against rising fuel prices. The cost of marine diesel has risen by about 30 percent since the beginning of the year. (Report: N.Germain)

Read an analysis of the oil crisis.


An all-out strike by Spanish fishermen, Europe's largest fleet, went into a second day Saturday, as protests continued on land and at sea across Europe at rocketing fuel prices.

Almost all Portuguese trawlers were also staying in harbour, union officials said, whilst striking Italian fishermen managed to delay the start of a sailing race in the Mediterranean, ANSA news agency reported.

The rapid rise in the price of oil has pushed up the cost of marine diesel by around 30 percent since the beginning of the year, causing trawler owners to warn they face bankruptcy without increased subsidies.

French fishermen have been on strike for two weeks, whilst in eastern France a Saturday morning go-slow by around 100 lorries jammed up major roads in the Lorraine region, according to organisers.

The Spanish fishing strike has so far been "a big success in terms of participation," said Javier Garat, secretary general of the Cepesca employers' federation, which represents some 1,600 boats and 20,000 fishermen.

On Friday evening protesting French farmers decided to lift their blockage of a petrol depot at Annecy, but warned of further unspecified action on Monday.

Another depot, at Villette de Vienne "will remain blockaded at least until Sunday evening," according to Jean-Louis Ogier, an official from the Rural Coordination movement in Isere.

The Italian fishermen who blocked the start of the sailing race between Viareggio, in Tuscany, and Monaco, unfurled banners from their trawlers outside the port saying: "Expensive diesel is choking fishermen," and "400 families are on their knees because of fuel prices," ANSA reported.

In northern Spain, striking fishermen face a particularly acute dilemma, as June marks the beginning of the tuna season, which brings in 80 percent of the annual revenue for the 50-trawler strong fleet of Bermeo, according to Patxi Martinez, a local boat-owner.

"To leave harbour and fish in these conditions, is to lose money. To not set sail, that will also ruin us, and destroy the fleet. Unfortunately, these are the only two options available to us," the president of the Bermeo Fishing Cooperative, Jon Lartitegui, told AFP.

In neighbouring Portugal, "not a single fishing vessel left harbour from any of the major ports," the head of the Federation of Fishing Unions, Antonio Macedo, told LUSA press agency.

On Friday a Spanish government official announced that Spain, France, Italy and Portugal would jointly propose an EU fund to help fishermen hardest hit by the price rises.

The proposal will be discussed at a meeting of the four countries in Madrid next week.

However the EU Commission on Friday demanded the power if necessary to reduce existing fish quotas, a proposal likely to further anger the fishing industry.

The French government last week announced 100 million euros (155 million dollars) in immediate aid.

Date created : 2008-05-31