Where to buy fish without promoting overfishing

Smoked salmon, scallops, Cancale oysters… Seafood will be the stars of the end-of-year tables. For ecologists, it’s a real taste dilemma: according to the Bloom association, the French eat an average of 24 kilos of fish per year, three times more than what the sea can support. Furthermore, 31 % of fish stocks are overexploited in the world. A figure that climbs to 82 % in Mediterranean. The situation is not much rosier in France: according to a recent Ifremer report11 % of the populations there are overfished, and 10 % already classified as « collapsed ». So, what if you still want to consume it? ? Reporterre already explained to you which products to choosewe tell you today where to do your shopping.

1 — Try Poiscaille, the short fish circuit

Launched in 2015, Poiscaille buys directly the catch of 250 boats as well as the production of oyster and mussel farms. Customers subscribe to a locker (weekly, fortnightly or monthly) and collect it from 1,600 points of sale in France. As with vegetable baskets, we do not choose the content. Sometimes it’s lobster, sometimes more unusual fish, such as Spanish mackerel, red mullet or pout. Fragile species, which do not keep well, shunned by a sector accustomed to freezing or keeping its production cool. « Many fish are eaten sometimes three weeks after their capture. Most suffer in terms of taste », explains Charles Guirriec, the founder of Poiscaille. By guaranteeing a maximum delay of 72 hours between fishing and the plate, the site delivers fresh fish like a roach. « This reconciles consumers with certain species. »

This sale in short circuit remunerates the fishermen 20 % above the market, according to the company. What are the effects on fish populations ? Better paid, fishermen fish less, says Charles Guirriec: « We are working with INRA scientists to find out if these better purchase prices really lead to lower fishing activity. Aren’t there other boats that will take what our fishermen leave ? »

An angler in the Iroise Sea, in June 2018. © Tien Trân/Reporterre

Poiscaille now has 23,000 customers and a turnover of seven million euros. It has just raised funds of eight million euros to continue its development. « We want to be a solution to overfishing and be faster than possible legislation »concludes Charles Guirriec.

Another company offers more responsible fishing: Fish side, created in 2017. Giovanni Garini and Mathieu Chapel work at Grau du Roi in the Camargue with a dozen fishermen who sail in small boats of less than twelve meters. Their catch is delivered directly to consumers who place an order on their website. They want to bypass intermediaries in order to better remunerate fishermen and encourage them to fish in smaller quantities.

2 — A map lists direct sales outlets

If you live near the coast, the local fishing map drawn up by the Pleine mer association is made for you. Calais, Le Havre, Vannes, La Rochelle, Montpellier, but also Angers and Levallois-Perret… It lists more than 630 points of sale of seafood products « and instantly » of artisanal fishermen. A promising alternative to the ravages of industrial fishing. « A fisherman who does direct selling fishes less than a fisherman who does not »says Thibault Josse, project manager at Pleine mer. At the fish market, the auction system used by most fishermen, « the prices are very fluctuating and drawn down, which pushes the fishermen to fish as much as possible to be sure of having money at the end. In direct sales, it’s the opposite. ». Because they know their customers and set their own prices, fishermen who sell their fish as soon as they return to land can afford to limit their catches to their real needs. « Consumers have demandsadds Thibault Josse. They ask them when they fished, how… Fishermen are obliged to enter into a logic of quality. » Time spent organizing sales also reduces time spent at sea. « On average, the fishing effort decreases by 30 %. » For the benefit of fish populations.

« Avoid salmon, cod and prawn »

You live far from the sea, but don’t want to finance its holiday rampage ? Thibault Josse recommends avoiding three species: farmed salmon, cod and pink shrimp. Stuffed with antibiotics and dyes, the first is a « massacre » eco-friendly, he says. Cod populations are in very poor condition in all the seas of the world. « They can be replaced by white tuna or smoked mullet, which are very good and not more expensive. » To the pink and overpacked shrimps, whose breeding depends on the deforestation of the mangroves, the fishing specialist finally advises to prefer local shrimps, bouquet or gray. « It is important to rediscover other species. Artisan fishmongers like local fishing, but if they stop cod and salmon, they lose 80 % of their customers. You have to try to look elsewhere. »

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