Press release

Granville bay whelk fishery enters MSC programme

April 29, 2014

The Comité Régional des Pêches Maritimes de Basse Normandie (CRPM-BN) [1], the Normandie Fraîcheur Mer association [2] and the Marine Stewardship Council announced the start of the MSC assessment of the Granville Bay whelk fishery. It’s the first whelk fishery worldwide to enter MSC programme.

Whelk, the most typically Norman of all French shellfish

Very popular among seafood lovers, whelk (Buccinum undatum) is a carnivorous gastropod found in shallow coastal areas (<30m). It remains mostly immobile and hidden, and uses its foot, which is the edible part, to move and feed.

From Canadian shores to Siberian seas, the geographic distribution of whelk is extremely wide. In France, more than 75% of the entire French whelk production comes from Normandy. The greater part of fishing and production occurs between Granville and Cap de la Hague.

Granville Bay whelk fishery, which is managed by the CRPM-BN, includes 72 whelk fishing vessels that use traditional traps methods and that bring in between 6,000 and 9,000 tonnes of whelk each year, sold by auction to fishmongers, fish merchants and processors.

A longstanding commitment to sustainability

In the decade from 1970 to 1980, whelk consumption and production grew considerably, which caused the resource to become endangered. In 1985, the industry started to adopt a deliberate policy to restore the whelk stock.

Daniel Lefèvre, CRPM-BN Chairman explains: “Thanks to intensive cooperation between the Regional Fishing Board, the Syndicat Mixte pour l’Equipement du Littoral (SMEL), IFREMER, the University of Caen and Normandie Fraîcheur Mer (NFM), we were able to improve the acquisition of biological data and define technical measures that could contribute to restoring the fishery.”

Arnaud Manner, head of Normandie Fraîcheur Mer (NFM), the association of fishing industries in Lower-Normandy, steered a pre-assessment of Granville Bay whelk fishery in 2008: “this pre-assessment allowed us to establish a more efficient application and to estimate the impact of the regulatory measures taken such as a maximum length of 12 metres for vessels, a maximum of 720 baited pots allowed per vessel, the minimum catching size of whelks, a limited fishing period and less licences granted.”
Laurence Mace from SMEL, responsible for the scientific monitoring of the whelk fishery, alongside the CRPM-BN, confirms that the measures show positive trends: "The number of whelk kilograms landed per trap increased from an average of just under 1kg in 2009 to nearly 1.5 kg in 2013; while at the same time, the market size of whelks sold increased!”

The MSC label promotes sustainable fishing practices

With the aim to promote and guarantee respect for the environment and fishing resources, Norman fishers naturally turned to the MSC certification and labelling programme. According to Edouard Le Bart, Head of MSC France, “We hope that the measures taken will allow whelk fishermen in Lower-Normandy to follow the example of the lobster fishery in Cotentin and Jersey, which obtained the MSC certification in June 2011. To do this, it must be proven that the whelk stock is in good health, that the fishery has a limited impact on the ecosystem, and that the management system is efficient.”

Daniel Lefèvre, in charge of managing regional resources, is satisfied with the Granville Bay whelk fishery’s commitment to the MSC certification process: “It is a logical follow-up after obtaining the label for the Cotentin and Jersey lobster fishery. The CRPM’s objective is to certify all the main regional fisheries, in order to demonstrate our industry’s commitment to this topic which has become highly mediatised and at times controversial.”

About the certification body

The independent certification body MacAlister Elliott and Partners Ltd will carry out an independent third-party assessment according to the MSC standard. Anyone who would like to supply the certification body with information regarding this fishery may participate in the assessment process by contacting Jo Gascoigne ().

Further information

[1] Comité Régional des Pêches Maritimes de Basse Normandie (CRPM-BN) is a sea fishing industry group to which all professional fishers of the Lower-Normandy region belong. In this maritime region with its 450km of coastline, the CRPM counts approximately 580 vessels, 2,200 sailors and 400 seashore fishermen. Its main role is to coordinate fishing activities within the 12 nautical miles and to represent the interests of fishermen. Among the 60,000 tonnes of captures in Lower-Normandy, 85% of the species are specific to the coastal strip and managed by the CRPM, mainly by issuing fishing licences and putting in place operational regulations (size of vessels, type of fishing gears, quotas, minimum catch size...) for the various regional fisheries. The CRPM-BN entered in the MSC certification program in 2007 for the major fisheries which he is responsible. The Cotentin and Jersey lobster fishery was the first to be MSC certified in 2011.

[2] Normandie Fraîcheur Mer, “industries committed to preserving the bounty of the seas and promoting Norman seafood products”, is an association of fishermen, auctioneers and wholesalers of Lower Normandy. Its aim is to add value to regional seafood products. With over 300 volunteer members, NFM acts to improve the quality and traceability of seafood products by providing advice, support and training to professionals. Other initiatives include the implementation and monitoring of NFM quality charters, and the obtaining of official labels of quality and origin (Label Rouge and Protected Geographical Indication). NFM has developed since 2013 the rubber band "MSC - Cotentin Jersey" which allow identifying the lobster for the Anglo-Norman MSC certified fishery. NFM moreover provides technical support to the CRPM of Lower Normandy for its MSC labelling programme concerning the main regional fisheries, in the belief that quality and sustainability are crucial to the preservation of natural marine resources.

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