The French Atlantic coast port of Saint-Gilles has been a centre of the sardine trade for as long as anyone knows. During the first half of the twentieth century – up to WW2 – it was home to an annual Sardine Festival, a tradition that has been revived in recent years. Now a new fishing venture is boosting the port’s position as the sardine capital.
It’s impossible to overstate how important sardines are to Saint-Gille Croix de Vie, which sees landings of 3000 tonnes of small pelagics every year – and La Maison Gendreau is one of the oldest and most important canneries in the port, marketing its production under the Les Dieux brand name, which has centuries of expertise behind it in producing canned sardines, mackerel, tuna, salmon and trout.
Their production has a host of quality and eco-labels, and demands consistently top quality fish.
To secure its supply of quality raw material, La Maison Gendreau’s managing director took the step of expanding into the catching sector, setting up a fishing venture with Jérémy Chagnolleau, previously skipper of 12 metre trawler Trafalgar, which was recently sold to a new owner in Cherbourg.
Together they have set up le Belle Alliance to build and operate a pair of 15 metre trawlers to fish for pelagic species, and they have gone to naval architect Coprexma to design the new pair.
Coprexma’s staff are now at work to develop the design of the new trawlers, focusing on catch handling and on-board storage, ensuring that there will be enough capacity with chilled water to keep catches in peak condition. This presents challenges for the design team, as the trawlers will need an 8-10 hour storage time on board between landings, while a conventional purse seiner needs six.
There is a great deal that has to be taken into account, not least that the trawlers will have to operate within fishing seasons that are changeable – but the partnership is seen as a win-win for both the producer and the fisherman, securing raw material for La Maison Gendreau, and the venture has been welcomed in Saint-Gilles Croix de Vie, which aims to maintain its position as the Vendée’s sardine capital.