We started our sustainability development journey at the beginning of the year, and you’ve heard bits and pieces of what we’ve been up to, but it’s time to give you the full picture. So, allow me to update you! I’m Kerry and I’m part of the sustainability council, along with our stock manager Matt, our CEO Jeremy and our Chairman, Alistair.
A lot of what we’ve been doing has been a whole lot of research. We have had to make a couple decisions to drop lines that have been very profitable for us. We’ve spoken to some people who are far more knowledgeable than us in their field and we hope to speak to more, and most importantly, we have learnt so much. But there is still so much more to be done.
Everything we have learnt throughout the process of reviewing our very extensive range has been invaluable. Currently we are working our way through our entire range to review the sustainability of each line in a systematic way. We begin by speaking to our suppliers, of which there can be more than a few for one species. They are asked to tell us where they sourced it from, and we go further and further back until we reach the body of water it was caught in and the fishery it was caught in. We speak to the buyers, since they’re the ones who have all the contacts to find out everything we need to know. The main things we want to know from the fishery are what catch method is used and the catch area.
The next step is to take a quick look at the Marine Conservation Society Good Fish Guide. If the species isn’t on there, we move to Seafood Watch. It doesn’t stop there though! We trawl through scholarly articles and any report we can find that talks about the species. If we find that after all of this, our supply doesn’t reach the standard we want it to, we begin work on finding a new supply. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it can take a few weeks. Still other times, there is no other option and we simply have to discontinue it.
What has this taught us? Personally, I’ve found it really interesting to learn so much about sea life and seafood, as well as all the different types of catch methods, and what parameters are looked at when deeming whether something is sustainable or not. I’ve ended up down many YouTube rabbit holes watching brilliant videos on catch methods, farming methods and, if I’m honest, I spent way too long watching a video of a Gurnard walking. Trust me, you want to see it.
Every fortnight, the members of the sustainability council have a meeting. In this meeting we go over everything that we have researched over the pasts couple weeks and record what has been done and what decisions have been made. We do this with a view of assigning it a sustainability rating that we decide internally. Our plan is to add a section to every single product description that has a couple sentences that tell you our view on the sustainability of that fish. This will help our customers to make informed decisions on their purchases.
I mentioned that we’ve had the opportunity to speak to a couple different organisations. The first one we spoke to was the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Everyone has heard of or at least seen the blue tick label that marks a lot of the seafood you see in Supermarkets. The MSC does a lot of work certifying fisheries, and we wanted to find out what they look for when they’re auditing a fishery to deem it sustainable or not. We could have just looked it up but we wanted to get the information straight from the (sea)horse’s mouth. It was a very informative meeting and it gave us the chance to find out from someone who is very knowledgeable on sustainability if what we were doing was the right road to travel down. (It is!)
We also spoke to The National Lobster Hatchery. That was very exciting as we actually donate to them on a regular basis. They told us everything about what their organisation does and what it hopes to achieve in the future. After that conversation, we launched the Buy One Set One Free on our website, where if you buy one whole lobster, The National Lobster Hatchery will set one free on your behalf.
The next meeting planned is with a potential new supplier of prawns. Prawns are BIG! This meeting is HUGE!. We'll update you in due course.
During the process of research and learning, we encountered a few things that we made the decision to discontinue:
- All our European Eel- We were under the impression that due to the supplier we bought from, we were getting through sustainable channels. Our research made us realise that actually, the stocks are so low that no matter what your source is, it’s still unsustainable. So, it was the first to go.
- Wild Halibut - We do still have farmed halibut, but the fishing methods used to get wild halibut were an issue, and the stock levels are not where they should be.
- Rock lobster tails – Due to the fact that we actually have two separate supplies of rock lobster tails with very different sustainability ratings, we have been very fortunate with this one. We sell cold-water rock lobster tails that we source from Tristan da Cunha, which is without a doubt the most sustainable seafood that we sell. If you’d like to know more, take a look at our Tristan da Cunha blog. Our other supply turned out to be undesirable so we won’t be replenishing our stocks.
- Whole cuttlefish – This is the most recent fish that we have decided we will not purchase more of. The stocks are low enough that we don’t believe any other source would improve the sustainability of this clever species.
It’s not all just research and chatting to people, I promise! We’ve also been donating to organisations that we believe are doing some really good work and making a real difference in the world of aquaculture. There are hundreds of charities out there that are making a huge difference in the world, and we would love to be able to support them all, but we do think the ones we’ve chosen so far are making a real difference.
- Blue Marine Foundation – we donated to them at the beginning of the year and have since donated again. They’re making some incredible headway into getting Marine Protected Areas established all over the world and putting pressure on Governments to commit in substantial ways to addressing the issue of the damage being done to the world's oceans.
- The National Lobster Hatchery – This charity is very close to home, based in Padstow, Cornwall. A lobster hatchery is met with a whole host of logistical issues as lobsters are not easy to raise in a hatchery environment, but the NLH has leaped over every obstacle. If you want to know a bit more about them, we wrote a blog about it!
- Whitby Lobster Hatchery – we learnt of Whitby Lobster Hatchery through the NLH. It is a new hatchery that is currently being developed in Whitby. We donated to assist with the cost of setting up and we will be watching very closely to see all the good work they get to do once they are up and running.
The other thing that we are doing is a beach clean! It was the first thought we had when we started thinking about giving back, and it’s taken some time to get going thanks to the global pandemic. Now that we are back to some version of normality, we are steaming ahead with it. We are very excited!
Well, there you have it! That’s a good idea of what we’ve been doing for the past few months to further our sustainable development goals. We will keep you updated along the way.