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First Whelk Fishery Enters MSC Sustainable Assessment

30 April 2014

FRANCE - The Comité Régional des Pêches Maritimes de Basse Normandie (CRPM-BN), the Normandie Fraîcheur Mer association 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.

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 per cent 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.

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