Science - February 24, 2005

Fish markets should join forces

Fish markets within Europe should work together more closely. That is in the interests not only of the fisheries, but also consumers, according to a study by the European Association of Fishing Ports (EAFPA) and Rivo, the Netherlands Institute for Fisheries Research.

The fish markets in Urk, Ijmuiden and Den Helder in the Netherlands, or Boulogne-sur-mer and Concarneau in France, form a link in the chain between the traditional, relatively small fisher boats and the retailers that provide supermarkets and restaurants with fish. If they were to combine their produce they would be able to better satisfy the demands of retailers, the researchers suggest.

‘Supermarkets want high-quality fresh fish and a guaranteed supply. A lone fish market cannot always supply what is wanted,’ says Rivo director, Dr Martin Scholten. ‘The different fish markets can come up with the goods if they combine their produce. If one particular fish market has too little, another can compensate.’

In this way the local markets can prevent retailers from going over to industrial contract fisheries, an undesirable development according to Scholten. ‘It is important to maintain the traditional fishing fleets in Europe. They all supply small to medium-sized volumes, and this form of fishery is in principle more sustainable than the large-scale industrial fishing, which specialises in one or a few types of fish. The big fisheries also increase the risk of over-fishing.

The report, which examined the functioning of European fish markets (about four hundred in all), also includes advice on how to legislate the role the fish markets can play in quality control, traceability, food safety and registration in Europe. / HB

Re:act