Stéphane Jacquot / agriculture.gouv.fr

The first French fishery has received the new sustainable fishing “ecolabel”, a public certification implemented by the French administration to recognize sustainable fisheries: Sathoan, the cooperative of fishers of Sète, a fishing town located near Montpellier in southern France, which specializes in red tuna. Sébastien Fortassier, a fisher of the label, explained, “This profession doesn’t have good press. I am part of the young generation of fishers who adopt eco-responsible actions for the environment, and that are also respectful of the species.” His vessel is one of the 15 boats certified and holding a European authorization for fishing red tuna of the 55 member ships of the Sathoan organization of producers. These small coastal ships fish exclusively using hook methods in the Gulf of Lion, the waters around Corsica and to the north of the Balearic Islands. The fish is only sold fresh.

This label is the fruit of nearly three years of efforts by the fishers and their partners. The certification, managed by FranceAgriMer and approved by the certification agency Certipaq, includes for the moment 15 volunteer vessels in the Mediterranean and will serve as an example for others.

What is the sustainable fishing ecolabel?

The decision to put in place a public ecolabel in France follows the willingness of the fisheries industry, in 2007, to create an ecolabel that is easily recognizable for consumers. The ecolabel following the guidelines set by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization on eco-labeling of fisheries products, enriched with new criteria (both socioeconomic and relating to quality).

An ecolabeling commission has met regularly since 2012 to lay out all of the criteria of the ecolabel and the methods for ensuring their adherence. This model was made open to public comment, and takes into account the observations of environmental NGOs. It concerns primarily the candidate fisheries, then the operators of the consumption chain, from first sale to the consumer.

To be certified, fisheries must follow four requirements for the ecolabel, checked by a certification audit:

  • Ecosystem: The goal is to guarantee that the fishing activities does not significantly impact the ecosystem, meaning the targeted resource but also the non-target resources and the habitat in which the fishery is located
  • Environment: Guarantee that the fishing activity has a limited impact on the environment. The criteria include a reduction in fossil fuel use as well as trash management and pollution prevention
  • Socioeconomic: Ensure a satisfactory level of living and working condition on board the ships for the crew. The criteria include crew security and training
  • Quality: Guarantee a high level of product freshness