Illustration of a langoustine fisherman in the port of Guilvinec (Finistère).
Fred Tanneau / AFP
Between confinements, the closure of restaurants and concerns related to Brexit, the Breton fishing industry has had a complicated 2020 to say the least.
The actors are counting on the end of the year celebrations to find a little smile.
They hope that the French will have fun at the table to forget all the restrictions.
With turkey, foie gras or log, fish or seafood are essential products for the end of the year celebrations.
These celebrations are also timely for the Breton fishing industry, which has been navigating troubled waters since the spring, between a health crisis and concerns related to Brexit.
"The holidays are welcome but they will not save the industry either, it will just give us additional time," admits Lionel Faure, secretary general of the Breton Association of Fishery Product Buyers (Abapp).
Ten days before Christmas Eve, the atmosphere is surprisingly calm in the Breton auctions.
"Normally at this time of year it's madness with prices soaring, but there is no demand this year", laments Marie Bercegeay, at the head of the established mareyage company Marie Luxe at Rheu near Rennes.
The fault in particular with the actors of the mass distribution who are delaying this year in placing their orders.
"They tell us that they are confident for the holidays but we don't see anything coming for the moment, we are in full fog", underlines Lionel Faure.
Big coins won't sell this year
The secretary general of Abapp, however, thinks that the French will want to have fun for the holidays in order to forget a rotten year 2020.
"With all the restrictions we have known, I think the consumer will want fine and fresh products," he says.
The market will however have to adapt once again to the sanitary instructions.
"With the rule of six adults at the table, we know that large pieces will not leave like monkfish weighing three kilos or lobsters weighing 2.5 kilos," indicates Lionel Faure.
Even sold off, they will not be sold and they will therefore be left in the fishponds while waiting for better days ”.
Supplying great starred chefs to the four corners of the globe, Marie Bercegeay is also impatiently awaiting the embellishment.
Deprived of outlets with the closure of restaurants, the fishmonger therefore launched into the sale to individuals of baskets of seafood for the holidays.
"This will not compensate for the loss of activity, but we must try to adapt," says the business manager.
Some fishermen did well this year
In this rather gloomy context, some players are doing all the same.
This is the case of Julien Le Brun, at the head of a fleet of six boats in the port of Guilvinec (Finistère).
“Unlike deep-sea fishing, inshore fishing is not doing so badly,” he says.
Without being exceptional, the year should be correct because we sold well in the spring thanks in particular to all the people who came to confine themselves to the region ”.
The shipowner is therefore rather calmly awaiting the end of the year celebrations, with a positive view of prices rising again.
He now hopes that the weather will not be too capricious so that his men can go to sea. “But in view of the forecasts, it does not look like a winner,” he says.
We will adapt by trying to take advantage of each opening ”.
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