Dialogue lifts French oyster farmers


Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
October 11, 2010

The French government is shaping a multi-tiered plan to defend the country’s EUR 400 million shellfish industry, which has been struck by disease and storms.

Concluding three months of stakeholder dialogues, French Food and Fisheries Minister Bruno Le Maire underlined the urgent need to tackle dying juvenile oyster populations.

“The No. 1 priority is to develop a root stock that allows producers to grow oysters,” said Le Maire at a press conference on Monday.

Producing about 130,000 metric tons of oysters annually, France represents Europe’s largest oyster industry. But in recent years, waves of juvenile oysters along the country’s coast have succumb to disease, threatening sales for this industry. The 2009-10 season is expected to fall up to 20 percent and, according to the country’s shellfish organization, Comite National de La Conchyliculture (CNC), the virus threatens about one-quarter of France’s 4,200 shellfish firms.

Bruno Le Maire kicked off the assises de la conchyliculture dialogue in June after hundreds of disgruntled French oyster producers took to the streets of Paris to clinch a meeting with the minister. On Monday, the minister deemed the work of the 800 stakeholders as “absolutely exceptional” as he underlined key points articulated in the 48 recommendations that concluded the dialogue.

CNC President Goulven Brest told SeafoodSource that the outcome of the dialogue “is not new because it concerns subjects that the industry has worked on for a long time.” He stressed that the dialogue was of interest because it consolidated all subjects in the same “dossier,” enabling the group to obtain certain commitments from the minister.

In terms of priorities, the completed assises stresses the need to organize research at a national level, creating a network of technical shellfish across the country, and ensures that each administrative region has its very own shellfish representative, acting as a conduit between producers, politicians and scientists.

The plan also notes the need to “accelerate the calendar” to put in place regional schemes to develop marine aquaculture foreseen in the recently passed loi de modernisation de l’agriculture et de la pêche — a law modernizing agriculture and fishing and ushered in on 27 July by the parliament.

France’s shellfish industry is composed of 3,120 firms, employing 18,400 people and producing 196,000 metric tons of shellfish annually.

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