Germany North Sea saithe trawl: the fishers’ story
Meet the Germany North Sea saithe trawl fishers
The Germany North Sea saithe trawl fishery has reduced its environmental impact and built a stable future. Jorg Petersen of Kutterfisch-Zentrale GmbH, the German company that processes its saithe, explains why the fishery chose Marine Stewardship Council certification and what it means to the fishers themselves.
- Reduced impact on seabed with improved trawl design
- Low level of discards and only 2% bycatch
- New buyers attracted by MSC certification
Germany North Sea saithe trawl has proven that economic success and the protection of marine ecosystems are compatible.
“Our guys said: ‘We don’t want to catch small fish. They’re the next generation and we’re throwing them away.’”
“The question we kept asking ourselves was ‘How can we be different?’” says Petersen. “The only way to get a label saying to customers and consumers that you are better than others is MSC certification.” He’s also aware of the wider need for sustainable fishing. “We must look at everything from a commercial point of view – but we also have to bear in mind long-term perspectives.”
With a history of good management, and only 2% bycatch, the fishery scored highly against the MSC standard and few improvements were required as a condition of certification.
What sets us apart
Here are a few of the steps Germany North Sea saithe trawl has taken to help secure certification:
- new light-weight, adjustable trawl doors minimise impacts on the seabed
- nets made of lightweight yarn reduce fuel consumption
- wider net mesh, allowing smaller fish to escape
- ongoing commitment to further improve environmental performance.
As part of their plan for sustainable fishing, the company invested in soft-bottom trawl doors, metal boards that hold the fishing net open as it is towed. The doors can be adjusted in height and angle, reducing disruption to the ecosystems that flourish on the ocean floor.
The new trawl doors are combined with nets made from a light yarn, which weigh less than standard nets and take less power to pull along. The nets also have a large mesh to allow juvenile fish to escape, preserving stocks for the future.
MSC certification has opened up the frozen fish market for Germany North Sea Saithe Trawl, with high demand from discounters such as LIDL and ALDI. This has reduced the fishery’s reliance on auctions of fresh fish, where prices vary daily, resulting in a more secure future for the fishery.
Consumer awareness of overfishing means that the frozen fish market is more and more geared towards sustainably sourced fish.
The new lightweight fishing gear has reduced costs, too. The lighter gear allows the fishery to save 20-30% on fuel costs as the nets are so much easier to tow.
The wider mesh nets have a dual benefit – fewer juvenile fish caught means less processing and handling time for the fishery. Larger fish produce larger fillets, so they yield a larger quantity of food per process than smaller specimens.
Germany North Sea saithe trawl’s MSC certification involves an action plan for the future with continual refinement of fishing gear. The aim is to make the operation more cost-effective and more sustainable with every passing day.
The article above was written by an independent journalist commissioned by the MSC to find out how MSC certification has helped this fishery.