Actors in France
In 2009, FranceAgriMer indicated that deep-sea species accounted for over 10% of turnover for 23 boats, and the majority of turnover for 11 of these. The same document indicated that only 2 boats landed over ten tons of deep-sea species per year and five boats landed over 500 tons.
France is therefore in a very specific situation, with a very small number of key players in deep-sea fishing – primarily three industrial fleets: Scapêche (belonging to retail giant Intermarché), Euronor and Dhellemmes.
Scapeche (Intermarché) / Lorient
Intermarché has fleets based in two locations: Comata (Compagnie maritime des Terres australes), on the Island of La Reunion, and Scapêche (Société Centrale des Armements Mousquetaires à la Pêche), in Lorient.
According to Scapêche’s accounts for 2008, the company employed 133 people (around 80% of whom were seagoing crew).
In 2010, it owned a fleet of 16 ships, including 14 trawlers, a potter and a ring netter. During the night of 31st January 2011, one of the jewels of its fleet, the newly built Jack Abry II, was shipwrecked in Scotland, reducing the current fleet to 15 ships. Nevertheless, the group’s latest acquisition, the sardine ring netter ‘Mirentxu’, which joined the Scapêche fleet in April 2011, takes the number back up to 16 ships. The Intermarché group’s Comata fleet, based in Réunion, also owns a longliner targeting toothfish (30 onboard crew). Together, the Scapêche and Comata fleets had a total of 17 operating ships on 1st May 2011.
Euronor / Boulogne-sur-Mer
The Euronor (Comptoir des Pêches d’Europe du Nord) industrial fishing fleet was formed in January 2006 with the merger of two fleets from Boulogne-sur-Mer: the Société Boulonnaise d’Armement Le Garrec, founded in 1920, and Nord Pêcheries, founded in 1945 then merged into Euronor. Euronor employs 215 people (40 on land and 175 seagoing crew). The fleet currently consists of seven trawlers, two of which specialize in deep-sea fishing.
Deep-sea species were “discovered” 25 years ago, primarily by Boulogne fishermen.
From 1986 to the present day, twenty offshore trawlers belonging to the two fleet owners have been based in Boulogne. From 1989, eight of them were targeting deep-sea species as part of their activity, including five specialist vessels. The fleet has suffered from the decline of its resources and the regular decreases in quotas, which could eventually lead to the closure of deep-sea fisheries. Circumstances have thus forced Euronor to redeploy its fishing activities, particularly by returning to its traditional target catch (saithe). Catching 16 000 tons of saithe per year, Euronor takes up 90% of France’s quota for this species.
In 2009, Euronor had seven trawlers, including two bottom trawlers specializing in deep-sea fishing: the Cap Saint-Georges and the André Leduc, built in 2003 and 2004 respectively.
In 2009, Euronor declared an average annual production of 15 000 tones of fish, 23% of which in deep-sea species. Deep-sea species thus constitute 2 600 to 3 500 tons of the fleet’s catch, depending on the year (two times lower than Scapêche’s deep-sea species catch).
In December 2010, Euronor was bought in its entirety by UK Fisheries Limited, a company owned in equal shares by the Dutch Fleet Parlevliet & Van der Plas and the Icelandic Samherji HF.
Since 2011, Euronor has dedicated only one vessel to deep-sea fishing (the Cap Saint-Georges), for six months per year (in Spring). In Spring 2012, the fleet’s deep-sea species catch had declined drastically: 227 tons of blue ling and 164 tons of black scabbardfish were sold at the Boulogne fish market, for a turnover of 0.9 million euros (Source: Le Marin, 2 August 2012)
The Boulogne fishermen and deep-sea fishing
In the early 1970s, Boulogne fishing professionals mainly targeted pelagic species (herring and mackerel), and saithe in Spring. At this point, the ships used their new winches to explore depths of 800/900 m. This was the beginning of the blue ling “era” (with France making its first landings in 1976). At this time, professionals did not know how to promote and profit from the other species that they caught (species of redfish, monkfish, grenadier, shark etc) and because of this, phenomenal quantities were thrown back.
The second deep-sea era began in 1985, with fishing at depths of over 800-1 000 m. This time, the target species were those previously rejected (grenadier, scabbardfish, siki, etc.). Between the first and second deep-sea eras, a Boulogne fish merchant found a way of promoting these species, using a simple marketing strategy: producers gave the fish to merchants, then to fishmongers, on the condition that they in turn would give it to their customers. These new species, filleted and renamed for sale according to a military theme (alongside “grenadier”, orange roughy is sold as “empereur”/”emperor” in France and scabbardfish as “sabre”), were quickly well-received by the French public.
Dhellemmes / Concarneau
The Dhellemmes fleet, based in Concarneau since 1948, employs 95 people, including 80 seagoing crew, and is currently composed of eleven ships, of which it owns eight fully and three (sardine ring netters) in joint ownership. Its 17 to 34 meter ships (average age, 23 years) operate from the Bay of Biscay to the north of Scotland. Three of these (average age, 15 years) make landings of deep-sea species to varying degrees. The Dhellemmes fleet belongs to the Dutch group Jaczon BV.
The growth of its deep-sea fishing activities in Concarneau has been astonishing: the mixed fleet increased from just five vessels in 1990 to 23 two years later. Almost none of these were specialist vessels until 1995. In 1997, the Concarneau fleet was made up of 26 ships, six of which specialized in deep-sea fishing. Later on, several fleets merged and the fleet gradually shrank. Today, Dhellemmes is the only industrial fleet still based in Concarneau. It must once have contained up to twenty offshore trawlers. In 2002, it owned 12 or 13 deep-sea fishing vessels, compared to just three in 2010.
In 2002: 12 to 13 deep-sea fishing ships.
In 2009: five special licenses to fish deep-sea species.
In 2010: three special licenses for the Corail, the Roselend and the Saint Gothard.
The three trawlers (the Corail, the Roselend and the Saint Gothard) fish in North Scotland and land their catch at Concarneau.
The power output for deep-sea fishing is 494 kW (the coefficient used for the power calculation corresponds to the proportion of deep-sea species catch made: 25% for each of the three ships). This represents 8.1% of the fleet’s total power and reflects the evolution towards use of other fishing methods, such as the Danish seine, as well as the fallback on other species. Dhellemmes began a diversification policy in 2003, converting four trawlers (Tourmalet, Larche, Galibier, Aravis) into Danish seiners.
- Le Marin, 25 June 2010 “Une flotte redimensionnée”.
- Le Marin, 12 March 2010 “Grands Fonds – Les pêcheurs inquiets”.
- La Voix du Nord, 12 October 2008 “La fin annoncée des espèces de grand fond pousse Euronor à se restructurer”.
- La Voix du Nord, 17 September 2002 : “Un nouveau chalutier industriel Nord Pêcheries en 2002 sans doute un second en 2003…”
- Le Marin, 10 November 2006, Philippe Urvois, published 28 December 2006, http://crefmpm.com/article.php3?id_article=330&id_rubrique=15
- Le Marin, 19 March 2010 “Le lieu noir d’Euronor labellisé”.
- FranceAgriMer Memo 2009, “Espèces de grands fonds”, sent out to members of the French mission to assess deep-sea fisheries (2009/10).