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Call for cooperation: Belgian venture looking for partners in ecological and economic sustainability

Pintafish is a new cooperative venture between small-scale fishers and a niche retail company experienced in ‘green products’, to sell sustainably caught fish from the Belgian North Sea directly to consumers throughout Belgium and so ensure a good financial return for the fishers.

Active in the the area of the Belgian FLAG West Vlaanderen, Pintafish is looking for contact with similar ventures in other countries and FLAG areas, to learn from each others’ experience of how small-scale/artisanal fishers can successfully catch and market fish which is sustainable, and in doing so, earn an income which guarantees the socio-economic viability of the fishers themselves.

Our project and philosophy:

Fishing techniques used must be designed to minimize bycatch and impact on ecosystems and avoid as much as possible damage or distress to the fish. The venture will promote kinds of fish which are not well-known to consumers, or where consumption is decreasing in favor of ‘fashionable’ fish, so that fishers can offer a broader range and so become less dependent on a few overfished species. The packed and marketed fish are labeled with ecological points, rather similar to the AAA, AA, A, B, C energy coding on electric appliances, so that consumers can choose for the ‘greenest of the green’ fish and so stimulate the fishers to ever higher standards.

The philosophy of Pintafish covers both ecology and economy. Besides aiming for sustainability with respect to species caught and method of catch, Pintafish also targets socioeconomic aspects. 

A key theme in Pintafish thinking is that sustainable products can only stay sustainable if their trade is sustainable as well. Therefore one of Pintafish’s objectives is to match supply and distribution of sustainable fish species. The most important link in this chain is the fisherman, who must get adequate remuneration for the efforts made. The fisherman must be involved in the marketing, must at least know what is happening with his product.

Fishing for the market is another objective. It is important that ‘sustainable’ fishers show solidarity towards each other and do not let themselves be pushed aside on the market of supply and demand, where in practice the buyer has considerably more power than the seller.

Pintafish wants to set up a system of distribution where the fisherman has an equal voice, where fisherman and distributor work together towards the same goal. Regular consultation is necessary here; both parties must be willing to listen to each others needs.

Because ‘sustainable’ fish are often limited in quantity and because of the rather small size of the Belgian coast, cooperation with fishers from a broader area is essential. Supply must be guaranteed and there must be enough variation in the species which are offered for sale.

During some seasons the supply from the Belgian coastal fishery is too limited to satisfy and retain customers. Pintafish is looking for candidates for such cooperation.

What we are looking for, what we can offer:

Besides exchanging species, we can also help each other in marketing. Pintafish is very much aware that a viable sustainable fishery can only come about if sales have sufficient volume.

Mutual exchange of experience, maybe even of logistics, and meeting each other can help achieve this.

Every existing channel has interesting characteristics which it is worth getting to know.

Finding out at an international level what we understand by sustainability and how we implement socio-economic elements is not only of great interest, but necessary in order to be able to survive as a group of sustainable fishers within Pintafish.

Via the Belgian FLAG, it is also looking at possibilities regarding the development of an international cooperation project via Axis 4 and would therefore like to hear from potentially interested FLAGs.

Pintafish is looking forward to hearing from interested projects. Please send your message (it can be in your own language, if we can’t read it directly we will get it translated) to:

Wim.versteden ( at )