Riding on the wave of sustainable seafood…

Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet documentaries have shaken the world to the core and consumers are now very much aware of the consequences of human actions against the environment.

Seafood is championed for its health-giving qualities and many people are turning away from meat in favour of fish. In the UK we now eat 486,000 tonnes of seafood a year, which is 8.2kg per person. However, the latest figures show that 90% of world fish stocks are either fully or over-exploited from fishing, so chefs and caterers are being encouraged to serve only sustainable species.

Sustainable fishing means leaving enough fish in the ocean, respecting habitats and ensuring people who depend on fishing can maintain their livelihoods.

Fish which are currently classified as red rated on the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide and therefore to be avoided currently include Atlantic halibut, seabass, skate and Mediterranean swordfish. So how can caterers satisfy consumer appetite for sustainable seafood?

Sensible sourcing

Sustainability is on the tip of everyone’s tongues when it comes to dining out, and chefs are being encouraged to champion unfamiliar fish varieties and use up seafood by-products such as squid ink.

“Like many things, sustainable seafood has become an expectation on a menu and products that lack any form of certification and ethical marks will be dismissed by today’s conscious consumers, “ says Adrian Greaves, foodservice director at Young’s Foodservice. “The provenance and sustainability of the fish and seafood you serve can be a huge selling point and resonates positively with a wide customer base.”

As well as MSC certified products, Young’s Foodservice also has a market-leading Fish for Life Corporate Responsibility Programme, which protects the future of its fish by employing sustainable practices from the very first catch.

Adrian continues: “We are proud to have close partnerships with all our suppliers, so we know exactly where our fish come from, how they’re caught and who’s caught them. This ensures all our products meet our high-quality standards every step of the way, so that our customers
can deliver only the best.”

Healthy oceans

Research has shown that well-managed fisheries can improve the overall health of the seas, as well as securing livelihoods in coastal communities, while supplying a nutritious protein which helps keep people healthy.

Seafood also has a low carbon footprint relative to other animal proteins, has a low water footprint and doesn’t require fertilisers and similar chemical inputs, nor feedstuffs grown on land which puts pressure on terrestrial habitats including forests – responsibly produced seafood is a great food choice for the planet.

Giles Bartlett, fisheries improvement manager at Whitby Seafoods, comments: “In the UK we consume over 100,000 tonnes of cod and around 60,000 tonnes of haddock annually – the majority of which is imported from countries such as Iceland and Norway. Much of this is purchased from fish and chip shops. “Fortunately, the fisheries in these places are well-managed and have been certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. If you cannot see the MSC logo – we advise you ask the establishment where the fish comes from, how it was caught and if it is MSC certified.

“Most reputable companies these days
listen to their customers, by asking questions about the provenance of their seafood customers demonstrate that it is important which should encourage businesses to buy responsibly and communicate their sourcing policies better.

“The prominence of MSC certified products in foodservice has increased in recent years and we expect this trend to continue.”

Responsible sourcing

Seafish is committed to responsible sourcing throughout the supply chain. One of its primary aims is to ensure a sustainable, socially responsible future for the UK seafood industry.

This involves protecting resources, fish stocks and ecosystems; supporting the development of sustainable marine aquaculture methods; facilitating well informed sourcing policies
and promoting best environmental practice.

Tools for Ethical Seafood Sourcing (TESS) is a web tool that points you to a whole host of free resources which can help businesses address social responsibility challenges in their seafood supply chains. Visit https://www.seafish.org/article/tools-for-ethical-seafood-sourcing
for more details.

Less is more

Using lesser known and therefore under-fished seafood varieties not only offers a point of difference with your customer base but
also singles you out as a sustainability champion.

Toothfish, blue eye tail and ling are some of the more unusual varieties coming onto menus, whilst different breeds of familiar favourites such as Murray cod and sand whiting are also gaining prominence.

“For caterers looking to offer lesser known but sustainable species, our hoki and Cape hake fillets are perfect for branching out with menus,” says Adrian Greaves of Young’s Foodservice. “Our hake and hoki fillets have a firm, meaty texture and delicate flavour that really complements smoky flavours such as chorizo and paprika. Not to mention, they’re packed full of goodness and Omega 3.”

Plenty more fish in the sea?

The Marine Conservation Society launched at new campaign at the end of last year ‘Say No
to Red Rated Fish’.

In its Good Fish Guide, red rated fish are the least sustainable options as a result of overfishing, habitat damage or other unsustainable practices. Until they’re improved, the society recommends avoiding these species, several of which are even endangered or critically endangered – like the European eel – and without careful management could disappear forever.

Samuel Stone, head of fisheries and aquaculture at MCS, says: “The health of the ocean is fundamental to life as we know it and we need to change how we fish, farm and purchase seafood in order to restore that health as quickly as we can. We are losing biodiversity and our marine resources are under multiple threats, but improving the way we fish and farm seafood can really help to turn this around.”

For more information, visit www.mcsuk.org/campaigns/red-rated-seafood-home

Sea for yourself

Seacuterie is another big trend for 2020, according to Waitrose and Partners Food and Drink Report.

Originating in Australia, seacuterie swaps the traditional meats of a charcuterie plate and replaces them with seafood alternatives such as octopus salami and Nordic-style fish.

Brain food

It is often said that fish is “brain food”, and some (but not all) research claims that omega-3 in the diet can help reduce the risk of dementia.

One study that followed 2,233 older people for five or six years found that eating fish twice a week could reduce dementia risk by 41% compared to groups eating fish once a month. 

Fishing for approval from kids

Fish is one of the few foods the experts agree on when it comes to good nutrition for children. All the research shows that fish is a rich source of many of the nutrients needed for young bodies as well as playing an important role in helping to prevent many of the diseases of later life, so it’s key that it features on school menus. School Food Plan states oily fish should be served once or more every three weeks.

However, according to Irish food board Bord Bia, shark, marlin and swordfish are not suitable fish for children and should be avoided. Tinned tuna should only be eaten twice a week, and fresh tuna only once a week. These fish all contain mercury which can be harmful to the nervous system of young children if eaten in large amounts.