Claire Nouvian dénonce la surexploitation des espèces marines à l’échelle mondiale ainsi que les pratiques de pêche destructrices des milieux océaniques. En s’appuyant sur de la recherche scientifique et sur un lobbying structuré, elle fait évoluer l’ensemble de la chaîne de valeur vers un modèle plus durable et contribue au changement du cadre réglementaire. Menant de nombreuses campagnes de sensibilisation auprès du grand public, elle met en lumière les pratiques de distribution et de consommation qui menacent les écosystèmes marins et les politiques publiques qui encouragent l’accaparement des ressources du Sud, avec des conséquences dramatiques sur la sécurité alimentaire et la stabilité politique de ces pays.
La campagne de BLOOM contre le chalutage profond (pétition de près de 900 000 signataires) a contribué à changer les pratiques des distributeurs et de collectivités en France. La plus grande flotte de pêche, Intermarché, a annoncé ne plus pêcher en eaux profondes d’ici 2025 et a cessé de chaluter au-delà de 800 mètres de profondeur dès janvier 2015. En 2006, Claire Nouvian publie son livre “Abysses” qui se vend à plus de 150 000 exemplaires en 12 langues et reçoit 5 prix. Son exposition itinérante “Abysses” a déjà accueilli plus de 2,3 millions de visiteurs.
QUI EST-ELLE ?
Claire a vécu sur plusieurs continents et parle 6 langues. Elle découvre la beauté des océans via la production de documentaires sur la nature. Son engagement a été récompensé par plusieurs prix comme la désignation de “Femme en Or” de l’environnement en 2012.
Claire understands the urgency to do something to preserve threatened marine ecosystems that are disappearing at a dramatic rate. She targets key areas, mostly forgotten by other environmental organizations, where change is doable and success is rapidly achievable. For example, stopping wide-net fishing and the 285 mega-boats that use these nets and are responsible for 85 percent of deepwater catches is therefore one of her major battles. Saving sharks, a species that could disappear in just over 20 years, is another urgent threat.
Due to a lack of independent studies negative impacts of current fishing practices are difficult to prove. Current research is biased by the financial and political interests of their sponsors, with research grants coming from the fishing industry preventing access to reliable information to inform accurate corporate strategy design or policy making. For example, contradictory research sources give different lists of endangered species to protect and policymakers suffer from the slow pace of negotiation and reform implementation at the EU level, while feeling strong lobbying pressure from multiple stakeholders. As a result, fishing quotas and legal constraints are too indulgent to effectively protect marine ecosystems. The financing system is also imbalanced: 85 percent of subsidies ($34 to $50 billion a year) go to industrial fishing (versus traditional fishing), whereas they only account for 50 percent of the sector’s catch dedicated to human consumption and only represent 4 percent of the sector’s employment.
In this context, most COs working toward marine conservation are at a disadvantage to affect real lasting change. Until now, no one has developed an entire value chain approach, combining reliable research, effective denunciation, and selfless collaboration with industry players and political institutions, which might be the only effective way to bridge activism, implement the necessary reforms and bring about a systemic change.
Most consumers have no understanding of the silent destruction that currently threatens all marine ecosystems. While they are informed of the fate of some endangered species living on firm ground, they ignore the existence of deep sea species. Without an affective bond to these species, humans often feel less concerned about their destiny. As a result, they think of fish as a sustainable, healthy alternative to meat without realizing that the volumes of species they consume have a direct, negative environmental impact.
Focusing on actions that can have a positive and rapid impact on urgent issues, Claire connects and works directly with governments and companies that are open to changing their practices and can make a difference in the field. For example, with the support of solid, independent research of scientists and an organized mobilization of other COs, Claire has contributed to a full reform of deep sea fishing regulation at the European level. Indeed, a vote in March 2013 has opened the way to stop bottom trawlers and other destructive deep sea fishing methods.
In parallel, still relying on scientific proof, Claire denounces those who refuse to act and builds consumer and citizen sector pressure to incentivize them to change. For example, the unsustainable practices of supermarket chains have been one of her major battles. She has notably identified and revealed how a well-known supermarket chain was misleading consumers. While they own the biggest French deep sea fishing fleet and have some of the most devastating practices in the field, and do not meet legal transparency requirements, they had created their own sustainable fishing certification and were greenwashing consumers about the advantages of owning their own fleet, which ensured they knew “where the fish comes from.” With scientific evidence in hand, Claire has launched a campaign demonstrating the impact of these practices on the environment, and has had a deep impact on the chain’s image, leading them to rethink their practices.
More interestingly, this campaign has also had a major influence on the practices of other large retail chains. For example System U, another leading French supermarket chain, has entirely reviewed its fish supply chain strategic plan and postponed the launch of its own sustainability certification when they learned of the risks associated with misleading consumers. As for the market leader Carrefour, they are working hand-in-hand with Claire, with free, unbiased consulting and advice to develop sustainable strategies. While working on the definition of a realistic—thus long-term—transition plan toward a sustainable fishing supply chain, Carrefour has blacklisted threatened underwater species from their shelves.
To give more leverage to her influence on policymakers and business leaders, Claire knows she needs a strong voice and strong allies. She hence organizes large environmental groups with an interest in the marine advocacy field to speak as a unified voice through a unique platform, hosted by the international Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. For each of her battles, she can count on the support of WWF, Greenpeace, the Shark Alliance, and Foundation Nicolas Hulot: together, they are credible enough to bring cases to governments, European institutions or the Tribunal of the Seas. In 2009, during the French Grenelle de la Mer, they have successfully proposed a law to turn 20 percent of French Marine territory into marine protected area (France is the second largest European country in terms of marine territory). Today, the platform is playing a key role in preparing a reform of European laws on abysses (deep sea) fishing; and thanks to Claire’s independent research on the environmental consequences of the current EU fishing subsidy system, they are also influencing its design and proposing alternatives.
Claire also knows the power of consumers in their consumption choices, and of consumer unions, in their ability to influence public opinion, sue large companies and the government. She is hence mobilizing a critical mass of consumers through various channels—raising consumer awareness about marine species through attractive and playful tools (books, exhibitions, and a contest); and informing them with independent data and research in the media, notably through an annual sustainability ranking of supermarkets and fisheries (something she had initially set up in New Zealand). Recently, Claire has embarked on an effort to create a consumer union by recruiting the general public to her cause: when she reaches 10,000 members, she will have an even stronger voice.
During Claire’s early 20s, she spontaneously moved to Argentina where she had a revelation about nature and decided that she would devote her life to its preservation. Back in France, she worked as a co-producer with Discovery Channel, and she geared her career to creating nature documentaries to help citizens discover the richness of nature and wildlife, and the role of individuals in our ecosystem. Using scientific information and research became the basis for all her work.
Claire was brought face-to-face with the stakes of marine ecosystem preservation while making a documentary on abysses in California, and found that millennium species and deep sea ecosystems had been destroyed for decades by the fishing industry. Convinced that such a topic required a unique outlook, she quit the production company she was working for and created her own production venture. Claire formed a network of scientists and researchers to prepare what would later become Bloom’s first project: a book and exhibition on abysses. She requested fifteen levels of editing before being fully satisfied! The book sold 150,000 copies and more than 1 million visitors have been to “The Deep” exhibition around the globe.
Claire developed other actions in the field of marine conservation, as she discovered that informing consumers would not be enough to change the fishing industry. In 2009, she discovered what was happening to sharks in Asia and decided to open a Bloom office in Hong Kong. In partnership with the research department of Hong Kong University, she conducted an ambitious, independent study about the sociological and eco-toxicological dimensions of shark consumption. This gave Bloom enough data to denounce wrong doings and convince the catering and the cosmetic industries to collaborate with them on more sustainable alternatives. As a result, 60 percent of the 35 largest hotel chains in Hong Kong have stopped offering shark fin soup. This is a tremendous achievement, considering that a single wedding dinner represents 50 to 300 sharks.