Fact sheets

Questions for your supplier

What is the species that I am buying ?

This question may seem unnecessary. However, in terms of sustainability, it is important to know what we are buying. First of all, merchants of sea products have to clearly indicate the species with their official names [1]. In addition, the different states of stocks of same species can be confusing. For example, “albacore tuna” (Thunnus albacares), species whose stocks are less weak, is regularly sold by retailers and restaurants under the name of “Bluefin tuna” (Thunnus thynnus), species whose stocks are extremely weak. The error at the last seller level (supplier, fishmonger, restaurant) is reflected at the consumer level and increases the confusion. On the restaurant menu, the species like bass and redfish, or the different species of plaice, are often badly named.

Can my supplier ensure the traceability of the products that I buy ?

The traceability is essential not only for limiting the risk for the retailer in case of a sanitary hazard but also for ensuring the production methods and the legality of the products (in the case of fishing products).

Is that a fished or a farmed product ?

Every method of production has environmental impacts. An environmentally responsible supply takes into account these elements. For every species, the main methods of production are commented in this book.

Is this a fished product from a legal source ?

Traceability helps to avoid buying products from an illegal source. The fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is getting stronger and, everybody at his own level can contribute. Avoid purchasing products with dubious origins.

The size : a sustainability criteria

In terms of sea products, a responsible purchase is one relating to adult animals that have reached their sexual maturity and have thus had the opportunity to reproduce. For many species, the market size doesn’t correspond to the size of the sexual maturity.

If the minimum market size of the hake Merluccius merluccius is 27cm in the Bay of Biscay, the size of the first sexual maturity is 42 cm.

The legal market size of the cod Gadus morhua is 35 cm in the Eastern and Western Channel, whereas the size of the first sexual maturity of males is 59 cm, and 70 cm for females. Farmed fish are not concerned because their reproduction is ensured.

Is the fish that I am buying coming from a sustainable source ?

If many fishing products come from healthy sources from an environmental point of view and from fisheries managed in a responsible manner, it’s not easy to identify them. Remember to check some points that can reduce the risk of buying non-sustainable products.

Is this species is endangered or not ?

You need to know the exact species purchased, even its scientific name. For example, in the squaliform family, several species of sharks are endangered ; others are in a better situation. If the product is proposed in a peeled form (saumonette), it is impossible to recognize the species, which is, however, essential in measuring the status of the resource. This book gives information that will facilitate your choice.

Where does the species come from ?

We can’t talk about a species independently of its stock and its management. It is therefore essential to know the precise origin of the purchased fish. If, for a specific species, some stocks can be weakened and their purchase can’t be recommended, others may be healthy. This book aims to provide precise elements allowing the buyer to choose his supply sources. This information is not always easy to find, because it’s often not available, but the questions that you will ask your suppliers will contribute to improving the level of available information. Express your curiosity and that of your clients to your suppliers.

What is the fishing method used ?

Some methods of fishing have a more negative impact on the environment than others, by damaging the habitats, and lead to important by-catches of juveniles and of unwanted species. But, other methods are much more selective. The principal fishing methods and their impacts on the environment are presented at the end of the book.

Is the fish that I buy eco-labelled ?

To date, only the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) ecolabel guarantees the conformity of the fishery and of the traceability (from the boat to the last supplier) with the internationally accepted guidelines of the FAO in terms of eco-labelling for fisheries products. This label, attributed by an independent organisation, certifies that the products come from healthy stocks or recovering stocks, that they are fished without damaging the ecosystem and that the fisheries are well managed.