European Union fishing fleet in the Bay of Biscay, seen from the sky. Regular flights over the Bay of Biscay by the French Customs Air Service, have enabled us to record more precisely, from 1989 to 1995, the geographical locations of French and other European Community (EU) fishing boats. Data showed three main 'metiers' within the Bay of Biscay fishing fleet: French and Spanish bottom trawlers (61%), French gill-netters and Spanish longliners. More than 80 % of gill-netters worked inside the territorial sea (12 nautical miles) and 60 % of them worked south of Noirmoutier (47°N). Longliners moved according to the seasons, from the edge of the continental shelf to the 50-100 m sounding lines. Since they work at night, only few pelagic trawlers have been recorded (records being made in daylight). The potters, liners and other small 'metier' boats of the bay were only located along the coast. The position of the French boats' positions according to their registration district showed that most boats worked close to their landing ports and that the overlap is small between the areas of two neighbouring fleets. Further analysis of the spatial distribution of boats in the French EEZ showed that Spanish boats were mainly recorded in the southern part of the Bay of Biscay, and that most were Basque. Belgian and Dutch beam trawlers fished their quota of sole off the 'Pertuis Charentais', the Gironde estuary and the 'bassin d'Arcachon'. The 100 m sounding line appeared to constitute a demarcation line between the major fraction of the French fleet and other EU fishing boats. Although some fishing areas were only visited by boats practising a particular 'metier', others were coveted by everybody and, consequently, were areas with the most serious risk of conflicts.
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