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Paris, France — In a landmark ruling that should signal the end of a hugely destructive commercial fishing practice France’s advertising authority ruled June 19 that the French supermarket giant Intermarche must pull all advertisements that claim its deep-sea fish are sustainably caught.
The non-profit BLOOM Association, based in France, challenged consumer ads run by Intermarche that claimed its deep sea fleet, Scapeche, used sustainable fishing practices. The French Authority for the Regulation of Professional Advertising – known by its French acronym, ARPP – declared that Intermarche’s ads were misleading in their claims of sustainability and that their fishing did not contribute to “the preservation and the renewal of marine resources,” as Intermarche had claimed.
ARPP also warned that Intermarche’s own label claiming “Responsible Fishing” bore too close a resemblance to the Marine Stewardship Council label and risked confusing consumers. The ARPP ruled that Intermarche’s ads must be discontinued.
“This decision sends a clear signal to the seafood industry that deep-sea bottom trawling cannot be marketed as ‘sustainable’” said Matthew Gianni, co-founder and policy advisor at the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. “We hope the ruling convinces Intermarche to get out of the business of deep-sea bottom trawling, given the damage this fishery causes to its reputation.”
The ARPP ruling echoes the findings of a number of recent studies which found that deep-sea bottom trawling had a far greater impact on the deep seabed in the Northeast Atlantic than all other activities combined, and that deep-sea trawling was responsible for the depletion of whole communities of deep-sea species. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, the lead intergovernmental body providing scientific advice on fisheries, estimates that 100 percent of the French and other European fisheries for deep-sea species have been fished “outside Safe Biological Limits.”
In recent years, the United Nations has called on fishing nations to take urgent action to protect deep-sea ecosystems, and the Rio+20 Conference this week reaffirmed this call to action. The European Commission plans to release a proposal for a major overhaul of the European’s deep-sea fisheries management legislation in the coming months.
“We hope the ARPP ruling will bolster the resolve of the European Commission to propose a timely phase out of deep-sea bottom trawling as a core element of much needed reform of the EU’s deep-sea fisheries management regime” added Gianni. “A phase-out of deep-sea bottom trawling in European waters would be a major victory for the conservation of vulnerable deep-sea species and ecosystems.”