Certifier : 
Control Union (UK) Limited
Certified status : 
Certified since : 
13 Sep 2017
Certificate expires : 
12 Mar 2023


This is the first whelk fishery worldwide to enter the MSC assessment programme.

Whelk (Buccinum undatum) is a carnivorous gastropod found in coastal areas to a depth of 30m. It remains mostly immobile and hidden, and uses its foot – which is the edible part – to move and feed. 

More than 75% of the entire French whelk harvest comes from Normandy. The greater part of fishing and production occurs between Granville and Cap de la Hague. 

Granville Bay whelk fishery comprises 72 whelk fishing vessels that use traditional trap methods, baiting pots with waste fish, green crabs or other unwanted crustaceans. They bring in between 6,000 and 9,000 tonnes of whelks each year, sold by auction to fishmongers, fish merchants and processors.

Sustainability has been a conscious goal of the industry since the mid-80s, following a period of sharp decline. Careful scrutiny of biological data and effective use of technical measures meant the fishery was gradually restored. Boats were limited to a maximum length of 12m with 720 baited pots, a minimum whelk size was agreed, fishing periods were limited, and fewer licenses were granted.

More recently, further efforts to conserve stocks have borne fruit. As scientific monitor Laurence Mace comments, “The number of whelk kilograms landed per trap increased from an average of just under 1kg in 2009 to nearly 1.5kg in 2013; while at the same time, the market size of whelks sold increased!”

Granville Bay whelk fisherman image © Edouard Le Bart / MSC