South Brittany sardine purse seine: the fishers' story
Meet the South Brittany purse seine sardine fishers
The South Brittany purse seine fishers are concerned with preserving their fishing environment: their modest and selective catches are capped. For Yvan Le Lay, president of the Association des Bolincheurs de Bretagne, the MSC certification offers not only the credibility of an independent assessment, but also the guidance for further improvement. Initially attracted by the credibility of MSC certification, he soon discovered other benefits: transparency and access to new markets.
- Daily cap of 20 tonnes
- Purse seine method is selective and fish stocks abundant
- Modestly sized boats: Except one boat of 19 metres, all boats are smaller than 17 metres long
- Independent observers
Why we chose MSC certification
"We thought about joining the MSC following a request by a factory representative who bought our sardines in early 2009," recalls Yvan Le Lay. After discovering the MSC criteria, the association's membership was pleased to find that their 20 years of resource protection shared the same vision.
"Sardine fishing with seines is unique in this line of work. It's a fishery on a human scale, it's environmentally sound and it doesn't harm marine resources. That's what we wanted to prove by joining the MSC."
- Yvan Le Lay, President, Association des Bolincheurs de Bretagne.
Le Lay believes that the MSC certification adds credibility, "Impartial observation by an outside organisation is much better."
The Association des Bolincheurs wholeheartedly supported the principles of the MSC when they first discovered the ecolabel. The Association’s commitment reflects the key requirements for environmentally responsible fishing:
- Observing a daily catch cap, which helps maintain stocks
- Selective fishing
- On-board independent observers assessing ecological impact
- Greater transparency in communication with industry and other stakeholders
'Small is beautiful' would be a good motto for the Association des Bolincheurs: their environmental performance is effective due to the modest scale of their activity. This quality was important before their certification but it was further bolstered by the MSC guidance. "We are not only limited by the size of our boats, but by their number and how often we fish," explains Yvan Le Lay.
Except one boat of 19 metres, all boats are smaller than 17 metres, so fishermen are therefore constrained by the capacity of their equipment.
Beyond this catch constraint, fishermen must respect a daily cap of 20 tonnes. Only three of the twenty-three boats can reach that limit. Together these ensure catches are congruent with available stocks.
Economic benefits of MSC certification
Although it's too early to measure the economic returns of their certification, the fishers are optimistic. "The MSC has a good reputation," says Yvan Le Lay, "That can only help us."
Sardine fishermen know that the price of their catch is mostly a reflection of demand. According to the fishers' analysis, if new markets open and demand rises, prices have to rise as well.
Yvan Le Lay explains that buyers are demanding sustainable fish. This means that an increasing number of fisheries are seeking the certification, "more and more are getting certified. We know that it's a very respected ecolabel," he says.How else does MSC certification improve economic prospects for fisheries?
Social benefits of MSC certification
Faced with the questions of consumers worried by overfishing, the Breton purse seiners see the MSC as an opportunity for everyone to finally see the true worth of their fishing practices.
The plan for the future:
- Qualified observers will assess ecological impact - observations will then be compared with the initial commitments made
- Continue to participate in commissions on coastal fishing for a more unified approach to the protection of ecosystems
- Increased company transparency before industry and other stakeholders
Find MSC labelled products from this fishery
More about MSC certified fisheries and fish
The article above was written by an independent journalist commissioned by the MSC to find out how MSC certification has helped this fishery.