Cash in the consumer coastline catch
Sir Angus Stirling kicked off June’s one-day Sustainable Inshore Fisheries workshop in London by saying that the Fishmongers’ Company (FC) might be centuries old but it saw change as a priority, in partnership with fishermen and traders.
Sir Angus, chairman of the FC’s key Fish and Fisheries Committee, and his colleagues also made sure the meeting had fishermen voicing their views; indeed, there was also some funding to help lessen the effect of losing a day at sea.
He highlighted the pernicious waste in discards, a key to much of the day’s discussion. A ‘natural catch of the day’ reflects what the customer sees on the fishmonger’s daily slab. Not “Catch of the day after the disallowed fish have been thrown back”.
Small boats can serve the local market (from schools to restaurants) within hours, with fresh, seasonal catch. At the moment however, for the UK the bulk of the catch (much of it shellfish) works its way through the auctions for sale elsewhere in Europe. Sale prices may be higher but so are distribution costs and the middlemen’s commissions.
Many small fishermen are not playing the market well at all or communicating enough locally – but some are.
Jerry Percy launched the boat for the deckside team when he homed in on the issue of a “fair price”. CEO of the Welsh Federation of Fishermen's Associations, he said there were now a number of marketing and logistics companies who were reasonably straight and transparent, mentioning the companies M&J Seafoods and Falfish, who were both represented in the audience.
But the bone of contention over what is a ‘fair price’ still sticks in many fishermen’s craws. The falling auction clock may have improved things, but some fishermen will empathise with Percy’s memories of landing dogfish and getting paid a few pence per pound and then finding the very same catch selling across the road later for £1 (€1.20/$1.45).
Part of the fair price solution lies in getting out, making local contacts and sharing support systems for marketing. Mike Berthet of foodservice supplier M&J graciously listed his tactical tips. His main ‘selling point’ is that he asks the fisherman what price the fisherman wants. He said, for example, some were discarding dabs because there was ‘no’ market for them.
M&J found outlets ready to pay the price the fishermen needed, and which also turned a profit for M&J.
WF was not too sure about putting the onus on the seller to guess what his catch was worth and WF would like to see more cases. However, Percy saw M&J’s approach as clear and workable.
Steve Cadwallader of Falfish said he was ready to take the whole catch, prepare the product and source different buyers.
The Welsh Assembly’s Dan Burgess, working with M&J, is also going for the high-end with migrants who have quit Spain and Brittany for the attractively cooler waters of the Celtic Coast – spider crabs. They have been helping crabbers take small numbers of these live, newly “Welsh” citizens to top chefs to try them out and create a new market.
It is worth looking at how Henriette Reinders with Seafood Cornwall and Nathan Rosarieux of Southeast Seafood and their local fishermen are succeeding. Simple things such as co-funding chill boxes with ice, for perfect condition catch of the day on a small boat, tapping into €5 million ($6 million) of EU funding, setting up blogs so customers know them at work, or preparing the technical ground to claim EU protected designation of origin (PDO) status.
The proliferation of costly, accreditation schemes also surfaced. They may be affordable by multinational chains (who ‘pioneered’ them to capture market share) but too much for day-boaters and they need them less anyway as the de facto guardians of local sustainable, fresh, quality stock.
There was a brief update from a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) official, in a response to a WF question, about the status of the investigation into doubts by scientists over the Ross Sea Patagonian tooth fishery MSC certification.
This is all about local quality, and fresh being immediately safe and hygienic. Local stock management is a core factor in getting good data on stock sustainability, increasing seasonality and reducing supermarket all-year availability demands. Catch over-abundance should, of course, be processed for later use; so why not local smoking and potting too?
UK Defra ministry officials at the meeting said they sensed these local schemes are having an effect on reform of the CFP to boost local management and change quota configurations.
And, for Sir Angus and every fisherman, they mean “discards” can find their rightful place of choice -- in the kitchen, not dumped on the seabed.
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