The Fish Society – an insight
Who we are
We are a small company with 10 employees in Wormley, England. Wormley is forty miles from the sea and a hundred miles from the nearest fishing port, but Alistair (company founder) lived when he decided to start The Fish Society nearly 25 years ago. And it’s where fish arrives every morning, despatched by our 150 suppliers the day before via the UK’s very efficient fish delivery network. Fish landed and auctioned on Day 1 in Cornwall, The Hebrides, Aberdeen and Norfolk, and indeed in the big French port of Boulogne is processed and frozen by us on Day 2.
Why we’re different
First of all, we’re 100% committed to frozen. All fishmongers rely on frozen fish for at least some of their range – otherwise, they’d have no prawns. And when fresh fish is scarce they might offer frozen as a fallback. But we believe that unless you’re buying fresh fish at the port to eat today or tomorrow, frozen is ultimately superior – as long as the fish being frozen is of the highest quality. Distance delivery of fish is an expensive business. You need fast delivery and sophisticated packaging.
It’s much better to buy fish frozen super-fast in a commercial plant, then expertly labelled and packed, and delivered to you still frozen – than to buy fresh fish and freeze it slowly in your home freezer.
These days every fishmonger must have a policy on sustainability. This is not a simple subject.
A hundred years of overfishing – intensified over the last 40 years by technology and globalisation – has reduced the stocks of many species of fish to critically low levels.
Today, most of the fish mankind eats is farmed. This takes some of the pressure off wild stocks, yet fish farming sometimes seems no less of a threat than overfishing: Scottish lochs full of farming waste, mangroves cleared for prawn farming, farmed species of every kind escaping to mix genes with wild stocks. The good news, as fish farming has become the dominant source of seafood they farmers are getting cleaner and smarter.
Fish is a complex global industry. Our fish might pass through six or more companies before it reaches us. We might routinely buy the same item from three suppliers each with its own supply chain. We are a small business and with a very wide range. It is frankly impossible for us to put our hands up and say we know we are 100% sustainable. We don’t believe any company retailing a wide range of fish could justify such a claim.
It is not very comfortable to be honest with you about the challenges presented by sustainability.
And yet, there are some positives. Overfishing began to be addressed 60 years ago when Iceland declared a 200-mile limit, expelled our trawlers and restricted its own. Fishing control got a big boost when Canada spectacularly wiped out its Newfoundland cod fishery in 1992. Norway, the EU, Canada and the USA read the runes. In the nick of time, and by a two steps forward one step backward process, politicians and fishermen do seem to be getting to grips with overfishing. Even China – since 2000, the fastest expanding big plunderer of fish stocks – has now officially acknowledged that the game is up.
Only the poorest third world countries have failed to grasp the blinding truth that continued overfishing can only spell disaster. There is a long way to go, but the direction is forwards.
Sustainable Icelandic cod Sustainable Icelandic cod. Source: Iceland Olympic fish stories
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