French court orders fishing bans to protect dolphins

France's top administrative court on Monday ordered the government to ban fishing in parts of the Atlantic to protect dolphins which have washed up dead in their hundreds.

French court orders fishing bans to protect dolphins
Dolphins swimming in the Gulf of Gascony sea, off the coasts of France. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

The move by the State Council, the highest court in government matters, comes days after an oceanographic institute reported that at least 910 dolphins had washed up on France’s Atlantic coast since the start of the winter.

Over a single week, more than 400 of the marine mammals were found stranded along the coast, an “unprecedented” number, the Pelagis oceanographic observatory based in the western city of La Rochelle said in a report on Friday.

Several environmental NGOs, including Sea Shepherd, had filed a legal complaint against the government over the dolphin and porpoise deaths. They said it was not doing enough to protect the species, which are in danger of disappearing from parts of the Bay of Biscay along the Atlantic coast.

READ MORE: France reports record number of washed-up dolphins

Most of the dolphins found showed injuries consistent with being caught in nets, other fishing equipment or boat engines.

Many died in February and March, when dolphins usually move closer to the coast looking for food and are more likely to come in contact with fishing operations.

The French government has so far held back from imposing fishing bans, opting instead for solutions mitigating the impact of industrial fishing on dolphins, such as onboard cameras or loud sound equipment to drive the dolphins away.

But the State Council ruled on Monday that instruments of “acoustic deterrence” on fishing boats “do not guarantee a favourable state of conservation for small cetacean species” including dolphins and porpoises.

Both species were threatened with extinction, “at least regionally”, it said.

The court gave the government six months to establish the no-fishing zones, and also told it to boost the monitoring of accidental capture of dolphins which it said was still too approximate.

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Paris votes on pay-by-weight car parking charges

Paris is considering following Lyon’s lead by introducing a sliding scale of parking fees based on a vehicle’s weight - meaning that parking for SUVs would become more expensive than for smaller cars.

Paris votes on pay-by-weight car parking charges

The city council this week adopted a proposal to examine the possibility for the “progressive pricing of parking according to the duration, the motorisation, the size and the weight of the cars.”

The south-eastern city of Lyon adopted a similar weight-related parking fees policy in May, which is set to come into force in January 2024.

The voted text in Paris undertakes to “put in place on January 1st, 2024, a progressive pricing of parking according to duration, motorisation, size and weight of the cars”.

The capital’s parking fees plan is, at this stage, non-binding and – unlike the fully adopted scheme in Lyon – does not yet include any additional details, including possible pricing levels.

The adopted proposals, however, do contain a recommendation for a “solidarity tariff for families on the lowest incomes as well as for large families”. 

Environmentalists on the council welcomed the move, pointing to the increasing size of vehicles – between 1960 and 2017, the weight of vehicles increased by 62 percent, councillor Frédéric Badina Serpette said, branding the issue ‘auto-obesity’.

Larger vehicles, including SUVs, use more fuel and emit more fine particles, while a study by insurer Axa found that large 4x4s are involved in 25 percent more accidents than any other type of vehicle.

Another study reports that pedestrians are twice as likely to be killed in a collision with an SUV compared to a sedan.

In Lyon, the council has decided that, from next year, residential rates will range from €15 to €45 per month, based on the weight of their vehicle as opposed to the current €20 per month flat-fee for an on-street parking permit.

Under pending rules in the south-eastern city, owners of an internal combustion car that weighs less than one tonne, or an electric car weighing less than 2.2 tonnes, will pay €15; for an internal combustion car weighing more than 1.725 tonnes, a plug-in hybrid weighing more than 1.9 tonnes or an electric car weighing more than 2.2 tonnes the price will be €45. 

For vehicles in the middle range for weight, the monthly price for permits will be €30.