La vie en rose: France’s only sea salmon farm

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Despite being one of Europe’s biggest consumers of salmon, France only has one solitary sea farm. The English Channel makes for good, even ideal conditions withs its cool, deep waters so why is there only one? Pascal Goumain CEO of Saumon De France explains all

Pascal has aquaculture in the blood despite coming from right in the middle of France, far away from its seas in Sologne. With a background in land fish farms, he started the Saumon De France fish farm twenty seven years ago in 1991.

Saumon De France CEO Pascal Gouman PIC: Saumon De France

Located at in the bay of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, Normandie, in second largest artificial harbour in the world, the farm is protected by a sea-dike. It has 15 hectares of concession and an operating license of 3,000 tons (France’s maximum) per year. Though it’s a small drop in the ocean considering that France imports the bulk of its salmon from Norway and Scotland.

“We benefit from the strongest currents in Europe, which puts the fish in a strong swimming situation”, explains Pascal Goumain, Chief Executive Officer.

“Salmon live in France and are natural to this environment. The sea waters are 8° in winter and 18° in September. At the moment it has been been very hot we’ve had to reduce the feed. The best we have reached is 2,500 tons.” said Pascal.

But France is yet to seize Normandy’s (or even Brittany’s) sea salmon farming potential. Though a mix of bureaucracy and a lack of enthusiasm for change is at the heart of it. “We should be a big aquaculture country but in fact we are a small one” says Pascal.

The Plan of Progress for Aquaculture was signed in 2015 by the French Ministry of Agriculture to support and develop the industry but not much has changed since. And the indifference has carried over with current Macron administration.

However the CEO has got a firm eye on a quality product. So does Pascal really need the competition?

Premium
A third of their organic produce (they don’t use any chemicals or antibiotics) goes to the big hypermarchés such as CarreFour, E.Leclerc Metro while goes to fish sellers who sell on to restaurants and markets around Normandy and beyond. Pascal has also gone into ecommerce capitalising on getting premium products such as French Gravlax and rillettes into local homes.

Smokehouse
The company also have their own onsite smokehouse – used with beechwood – which is used on 10% of their produce. Their salmon costs 30 euros per kilo, while its smoked version is 89 euros per kilo, a big jump. But with famous French chefs such as Guillaume Gomez, the chef of the Élysée, reputed to be fans, you can’t knock the price.

While not wanting to divulge this in year’s numbers, the company reported a turnover of 2 million euros in 2016, when it produced 250 tons of fish.

So what about the future? “We are focusing on investing in building a salmon farm on a wind farm by 2021,” adds Pascal.