In a bid to boost seafood sales, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has axed the country’s “fish tax.”

In a statement released by the Elysee Palace, the president’s home, Sarkozy said ending the tax will “add momentum” to the country’s seafood sales.

The 2 percent tax — imposed on seafood sales, except oysters and mussels sales, in fishing ports — will cease on 1 January 2012.

The fish tax originated in November 2007 following a strike by French fishermen. The tax aimed to compensate fishermen for high fuel costs. Effective in January 2008, the tax brought an average of EUR 70 million and EUR 80 million annually into state coffers, contributing to a general fund to help the seafood supply chain in France.

The country’s retail association, the Fédération du commerce et la distribution (FCD), welcomed the end to the tax, “particularly at a time when the French seafood supply chain aims to encourage consumption of seafood products,” said the FCD in a statement.

News of the tax followed a meeting last month between Sarkozy and stakeholders in France’s seafood industry, including Pierre-Georges Dachicourt, president of Comité national des pêches maritimes et des élevages marins, the national fishermen association.

At the meeting, participants launched a private “interprofessional” fund for the industry, principally financed by the country’s retailers, to improve competition in the seafood supply chain. Crucially, a slice of the funds will be fed into implementing a “collective brand” identifying seafood products hailing from France, akin to a “Made in France” label for seafood. Kicking off with an initial EUR 10 million donation in 2011, the fund is slated to have an annual budget of EUR 35 million.

In addition to promoting French seafood products, the fund will also be used to establish “sustainable energy measures and a sustainable fishing industry.”

In 2010, the seafood sector set up a inter-professional group, France Filière Pêche. This association groups together more than 13 organizations in the seafood supply chain. The thrust of the association is to promote the French seafood sector and to create a French seafood brand and/or logo that effectively highlights French products to consumers.

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