Plymouth on the road to marine sustainability
September 14 2012 Fish2Fork
Tiger and king prawns imported from the tropics are the single biggest factor stopping restaurants in Plymouth from being able to claim they use sustainable supplies of seafood, a survey shows.
Almost two-thirds of restaurants in Plymouth serve tiger or king prawns and but only a handful get supplies that are certified as sustainable, a survey by Fish2fork reveals.
The findings were made as Fish2fork investigated the fish and shellfish served in Plymouth at the invitation of city’s National Aquarium and Plymouth University’s Marine Institute as part of a project to rate the city’s restaurants according to their marine sustainability – to see them, go to http://www.fish2fork.com/plymouth-marine-festival.aspx.
More than half of the 56 restaurants rated by Fish2fork as part of the Marine City Festival’s Seafood Festival starting tomorrow (September 15) achieved a blue fish rating, showing that Plymouth is on its way to becoming a sustainable fish city. But while 31 restaurants managed a blue rating, 25 were given a red fish rating showing that they have work to do on their sustainability record.
Tim Glover, managing director of Fish2fork, said: “Overall, Plymouth can give itself a pat on the back for marine sustainability. However, it can still do better and ought to do better.
“Fish stocks around the UK, Europe and the world are under enormous pressure. Far too many are overfished and restaurants need to make sure they are not contributing to the problem. It wouldn’t take much effort for every restaurant in Plymouth to serve only sustainable species.
“By rating restaurants in Plymouth we hope to highlight those which are doing the right thing and to focus the attention of chefs on the importance of knowing just where their fish and shellfish come from.
“Chefs go to extraordinary efforts to buy fresh, high quality ingredients and to cook fantastic meals. We believe sustainability is an equally important element of good food.”
Mr Glover added: “We found an unlucky 13 species being served in Plymouth that we fear come from unsustainably managed fisheries.”
More than 70 per cent of Europe’s fisheries are considered to be overfished, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation calculates that worldwide 30 per cent are overfished. A report published earlier this year by the New Economics Foundation suggested that if Europe’s depleted fish stocks were allowed to recover, an extra £2.7 billion would be earnt by the fishing industry catching an additional 467,000 tonnes of fish annually.
The restaurant with the best record on marine sustainability in and around Plymouth is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Canteen & Deli with 4.5 blue fish. It is the equal highest rating achieved anywhere in the country.
It is followed by the Boathouse Cafe and Harbourside Fish and Chips, both of which were awarded a 3 blue fish rating. Langdon Court and the Duke of Cornwall were awarded 2.5 blue fish while three establishments – The Mussel Inn, Seco Lounge and Rock Salt – received two blue fish. The highest possible rating is 5 blue fish, though no restaurant anywhere in the country has yet managed it, and the worst is 5 red fish. Of those restaurants in Plymouth that did get a red fish rating, none were worse than 1.5 red fish.
Joe Draper, head chef at the Canteen in Plymouth, said: “We’re really pleased to be named the number one restaurant in Plymouth for sourcing fish sustainably. This is an issue that’s very close to our heart and we are unreservedly committed to only serving fish that has been caught responsibly, sustainably and from within 50 miles of Plymouth. The fish that we serve might be unfashionable or unusual but it tastes absolutely great and we are excited that lots of our guests are trying and loving varieties of fish they might not have tried before.”
Fish2fork judges how sustainable restaurants are on a range of factors. Among the most important considerations is whether restaurants are using fish or shellfish that are considered by scientists to be overfished or otherwise under threat. Others include the level and quality of information provided to the customer on the source and catch method of fish and shellfish that are served.
Salmon is the most popular of the fish and shellfish served in Plymouth, with 69.6 per cent of restaurants offering it. It is followed by mussels and scallops, equal on 67.9 per cent, tiger or king prawns on 64.3 per cent, and sea bass on 57.1 per cent.
More than 60 different species are served by the 56 restaurants rated by Fish2fork, including some of the most sustainable choices such as Devon brown crab, mussels, pollock, gurnard and dab.
But 13 types of fish and other seafood on menus could be unsustainable, with tiger and king prawns heading the list in Plymouth where at least 31 restaurants that serve them failed to demonstrate that they used a responsibly certified source.
Tiger and King prawns eaten in the UK are usually intensively farmed in countries including Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia where there are serious concerns about environmental damage. Among the biggest concerns is for overfishing. Although farmed, the prawns are fed fishmeal and fish oil that has been derived from catches of wild fish taken from overfished areas of the seas.
Restaurants also need to be aware that local does not always mean sustainable. At least 19 restaurants in Plymouth serve plaice and boast of using locally-landed supplies, often by day boats. However, not all stocks of plaice in the English Channel or other areas used by boats landing in the West Country are sustainable and 17 restaurants were unable to offer assurances that they got theirs from sustainable fisheries.
Similarly, restaurants need to make more effort to find out where their cod come from. Although only two Plymouth restaurants cited supplies which are from unsustainable sources, 11 others were unable to be sure where theirs originated.
Sea bass is one of the most commonly used fish in Plymouth restaurants, with at least 32 of the 56 rated restaurants serving it. However, 12 restaurants told Fish2fork they either used supplies from unsustainable sources or were uncertain exactly where theirs came from.
Seven restaurants also served whitebait which is considered a dish to avoid by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). An eighth restaurant, the Duke of Cornwall, took whitebait off the menu when told of the conservation concerns.
Notes to editors:
Interview and photo opportunity: 2pm, Friday September 14 at Commercial Wharf in Plymouth. Fish2fork will be handing out certificates to some of the best blue rated restaurants.
Fish2fork is attending the Seafood Festival over the weekend. Please feel welcome to visit the stall.
The five most unsustainable species served in Plymouth (seafood that either definitely come from unsustainable fisheries or the restaurants were unable to say):
Tiger/king prawns 31 restaurants
Plaice 17 restaurants
Cod 13 restaurants
Seabass 12 restaurants
Whitebait 7 restaurants
The other species from unsustainable sources, or for which the restaurant did not provide an assurance to Fish2fork that it came from sustainable sources were: rays (usually called skate on menus), haddock, snapper, salmon from the wild, sea bream, brill, ling and swordfish.
Ten most popular fish and shellfish in Plymouth:
Salmon served at 39 of the 56 restaurants
Mussels served at 38
Scallops served at 38
Tiger/king prawns served at 36
Sea bass served at 32
Crab served at 30
Haddock served at 29
Prawns (Atlantic) served at 28
Cod served at 24
Calamari (squid) served at 22
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