“CAUGHT” Documentary a Catalyst for Change as France Bans Fishing to Protect Dolphins
The recent government order banning fishing in parts of the Atlantic reflects a growing recognition of the importance of marine conservation and the need for action to protect our oceans. Age of Union and its partner projects with Sea Shepherd and Sea Shepherd France have been at the forefront of this movement, working to address the problem of dead marine animals washed up on French shores.
In a landmark move to protect endangered marine mammals, the French government has banned fishing along parts of the Atlantic coast for the next six months. The decision, announced on March 20, follows a shocking report from Pelagis, an oceanographic observatory, which revealed that 910 dolphins had washed up on French shores since the start of winter.
The report by Pelagis, which specializes in the conservation of marine megafauna, disclosed that in one week alone, more than 400 marine mammals were found stranded, dead, or with injuries related to fishing nets, equipment, or boat engines. Such numbers are grossly unprecedented and require serious action to address.
In response to these alarming statistics, the State Council ordered the French government to establish no-fishing zones and other measures to protect dolphins in the Atlantic. The ban is a significant victory for conservationists and environmental NGOs around the world, including Age of Union partner projects Sea Shepherd and Sea Shepherd France.
Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation non-profit organization, engages in direct action campaigns to defend wildlife and conserve and protect the world’s oceans from illegal exploitation and environmental destruction. As part of their lobbying efforts, Sea Shepherd France filed a legal complaint against the government over the unacceptable deaths of dolphins and porpoises. Alongside the Observatory Pelagis report, the legal complaint was a key factor in the State Council’s decision to impose the fishing ban.
Age of Union also played a crucial role in raising awareness of the issue through its latest documentary, CAUGHT. The film, which premiered in Toronto and Paris last year, features the M/Y Age of Union partnership vessel crew and its tireless work on the front lines to end dolphin bycatch and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing on France’s Atlantic coast.
Lamya Essemlali, the founder of Sea Shepherd’s France chapter, spoke to Age of Union about her involvement and the film CAUGHT at the premiere in Paris last October, where she pinpointed the exact problem that the French government has finally caught onto.
“In the case of dolphins, fishing isn’t illegal, which is the problem. We have to change the regulations,” said Essemlali.
The fishing ban imposed by France’s State Council is a huge feat, but it is one of many that the country will have to take before real change can occur. Until then, conservationists like Essemlali will continue their efforts to be actors of change through projects like CAUGHT. As Essemlali puts it, “I hope it’ll [the film] contribute to raising awareness so that people question the link between their choices as consumers and their impact on the ocean.”
The timing of this ban in relation to the release of CAUGHT is not lost on Age of Union Founder Dax Dasilva.
“It is motivating to see how public pressure from the Sea Shepherd France campaign and the international release of our film CAUGHT, which documented the efforts to end dolphin bycatch off the coast of France, can change public opinion and then the law,” he said in an interview. “This all happened in less than a year from the film’s release and our premieres in Toronto and Paris.”
Seeing the impact Age of Union has had alongside partner projects like Sea Shepherd has proven to be extremely rewarding to those involved and inspirational to those who have yet to join the global community of changemakers.
“Raising public awareness through the power of film is a bold new front for conservationists,” said Dasilva. “When the people care, the government cares.”
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