Biofach shows that "bio" has outgrown childhood and is becoming a bigger business every year. The Bundesverband Naturkost Naturwaren (BNN), a business association of mostly retailers of natural foods and other natural products naturally had a booth at the fair and also contributed actively to the workshop and conference programme running parallel to the trade show. Cornelia E Nauen of Mundus maris and board chair of Q-quatics was invited by BNN to talk about sustainable fish and criteria, which would make it easier for retailers to navigate the often treacherous value chains to ensure offering only sustainably produced seafood.

In the light of continued disregard of scientific advice for up to 50% of the species for which European ministers in charge of fisheries fix quotas during the annual horse trading before X-mas, it is often difficult for retailers to be certain they can offer fish and fisheries products that meet basic sustainability criteria, such as healthy stocks, prudent management, low impact production methods and respect for labour standards.

Cornelia Dressler of BNN introduced the topic of the lunch-time event drawing attention to the guidance already developed at European levels and further elaborated by BNN, drawing attention to the fact that contrary to other food stuffs no directive existed for fisheries products.

So getting some guidance when retailers with a large range of products can not be specialists in all their products on offer is much warranted. Cornelia Nauen set the scene with a short introduction about the interaction between small-scale coastal fisheries mostly for freshfish production and industrial vessels with a large range of operations. She added some highlights on how the global seafood market links even remote producers in Africa to consumers in Europe, Asia and North America. The major proposals to base the choices of retailers on were:

  • use reliably certified products;
  • use a fish ruler indicating minimum sizes of major commercial species in the North Sea and Baltic to make sure, you only sell fish that has reproduced at least once;
  • if you sell other fish, check in FishBase that your product is at least 50% of the recorded maximum size - that's good for the fish and the fishers;
  • ask your whole saler for minumum labelling according to European law. The pocket guide for labelling is available here;
  • if you can, establish direct links with small-scale fishers who use low impact gears and build trusted business relations.

The slides can be accessed here.

Dr. Bergleiter of Naturland - Verband für ökologischen Landbau e.V. completed the scenario with further comparisons between industrial and artisanal fisheries and cited some interesting examples of how Naturland had helped to build capacity for bioproduction in different places and promote fish stock recovery.

Rounds of questions and answers addressed the limitations of the MSC label, the challenges of direct cooperation between small producers and retailers and in general use the sustainable development goals as guidance and follow the simplified advice mentioned earlier.

This way, time flew by and it was already time for Cornelia Dressler to close the session and offer continued support from BNN for all those interested. More Info about BNN here.

Overall the fair was diversified and large with many producers of new products seeking distribution channels. Efforts to reduce packaging in general and plastic in particular very visible at many booths. Nevertheless, in a few occasions plastic cuttlery was still being used. So, there is room for further improved and innovative practices in line with the original ideas of biologically safe and sound production and consumption.