Media watch: Imported vs. domestic


Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
June 19, 2011

Last week, French media was awash in stories highlighting the country's increasing dependence on imported seafood. Prompting the coverage was a new report from Ocean 2012 and UK think-tank the New Economics Foundation, recently launched in Paris.

According to the report “Fish Dependence 2011,” released 13 June, French waters can no longer feed domestic seafood demand. In other words, as of 13 June France is no longer self-sufficient in terms of seafood supplies.

“Do the French eat too much fish?” asked French radio station Europe 1, underlining that French seafood consumption hit 34.2 kilograms per capita in 2007, twice the 17.1-kilogram global average. In Europe, the French fall into fourth position in terms of seafood consumption. The Portuguese, with 61.6 kilograms per capita, holds the top slot, followed by Spain and Lithuania with 44.8 kilograms and 37.6 kilograms, respectively.

But the article clarifies that by mid-June fishing quotas for the country are not exhausted. For example, about 50 percent of fishing capacity for the Gascony langoustine is still available, a source at the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing told Europe 1.

And, indeed, the piece makes the point that if France imports a hefty amount of seafood, it may do so in order to source cheaper supplies from abroad “surfing on less strict social and environmental norms.”

Citing the “Fish Dependence 2011” report, French broadsheet Le Figaro underlined that without aquaculture France would be dependent from 7 May, not the 13 June. According to figures from the report, France produces 74,000 metric tons in mariculture, 38,000 metric tons in freshwater fish farming and 189,000 metric tons of molluscs and crustaceans. The country’s hatcheries and nurseries produce 58 million juveniles.

The nationwide daily Le Figaro emphasized that France’s voracious appetite for seafood will only serve to increase demand — while the average European eats 22.1 kilograms of seafood, the French consumer in excess of 34 kilograms.

“By eating more fish than European waters can produce we are playing with the fish stocks and communities dependent on fishing. We are putting in peril jobs both in the heart of the EU and outside,” said Rupert Crilly, co-author of the report, citing the Le Figaro article.

“How can we marry demand and supply in the EU?” asks Le Figaro. Answering this question, the piece cites the report and Stephan Beaucher, an adviser on the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy at the Ocean 2012, who believes that CFP should provide the solution. “Ocean 2012 wants access rights to be revisited for each country. It is necessary to put in place an evaluation table with environmental criteria like the impact of capturing juveniles, on CO2 engagements, on illegal catches,” said Beaucher.

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