Seasonal and sustainable: three’s better than one


This month we’re putting not one, not two, but three fish in the spotlight.

Our first fish of the month is turbot, an impressive fish which can grow up to 10kg in weight. However, turbot is expensive and normally reserved for high-end dishes in the kitchens of seafood restaurants. That’s why this month we’re bringing you two other sustainable fish, plaice and mackerel, which is more affordable, but still in season and sustainable.  


Turbot is an expensive fish with a huge fan base, making it a popular dish for fine-dining restaurants and for special occasions and dinner parties at home. The average catch is between 1-5kg with a 2kg+ fish easy yielding enough fillets to feed four. They are usually a very welcome catch for local trawlers and beam trawlers because of their high value, although during the spring and summer there is also a good tangle net fishery for them.

When buying turbot, it is important to look for a freshly caught fish, with bright eyes which are free of any fishy odour. The flesh should also be firm to the touch without any discolouration, as turbot can turn a blueish shade as the fish becomes less fresh.

You can cook turbot whole by roasting it on the bone, adding extra flavour to the flesh. When cooking turbot whole, it is important to check that the fish has been properly prepared to avoid a bitter taste, so ensure that the gills and scales have been removed and that the fish has been gutted.

If you are cooking turbot fillets, it is better to use gentler cooking methods such as steaming or poaching. Turbot can be fried but as it is a delicate fish, it should be cooked carefully until the flesh is springy. To check if the fish is cooked you can insert a sharp knife into the thickest part of the fish or fillet; the knife should be hot to the touch when removed.

Check out some delicious turbot recipes on the Great British Chefs website here.


Plaice is a more affordable fish which has grown in popularity as people seek sustainable alternatives to prime white fish, such as cod. It has a soft flavour which works well in many recipes, taking on the flavours of the other ingredients used.

If you are looking to purchase plaice, ensure it has been locally landed and comes from sustainable stock. Plaice is available all year around, and is a popular and plentiful fish in the South West regularly sold through Plymouth Fisheries, but should be avoided between February and April, as the flesh can become thin and watery during this time.

When cooking plaice at home it is best to eat the fish as soon as possible after purchasing, as plaice can quickly lose its flavour. It is easy to spot fresh plaice on the fish counter as its iconic bright orange spots will become duller as the catch gets older.

Plaice can be cooked using a range of methods such as grilling, baking, poaching, frying and even deep frying, however it is important to remember it takes on the flavours of anything it is cooked in, and any other ingredients it is cooked with.

It is preferable to cook plaice on the bone in order to enhance the flavour, ensuring the black skin of the fish has been removed. Fillets of plaice can also be served as an alternative to cod for fish and chips, or even stuffed with a number of fillings to create an exciting dish.  

Click here to find plaice recipes from BBC Food.


Mackerel is a fantastic fish which is generally low in price, but high in nutritional value and rich in the beneficial fatty acid, omega-3. It is a very versatile fish which can be used in a number of recipes, ranging from simple, quick meals to more complex, time consuming gourmet dishes.

To ensure you are buying the most sustainable catch, buy mackerel which was locally caught using traditional fishing methods such as hand-lines.  

Although mackerel stocks in the South West are healthy, mackerel has been noticeably absent from Plymouth Fisheries so far this year – a situation we hope to see change very soon as mackerel, especially hand-line caught mackerel, is such a great fish.

It is recommended that you should eat at least two portions of fish each week, with one portion being an oily fish, in order to have a healthy diet. Mackerel is an ideal fish to include in your weekly shop as it is commended for its high levels of essential oils and it is rich in omega-3, nutrients and vitamins.  

When buying mackerel from your local fish monger it is important to look for a shiny fresh fish, with bright eyes and no fishy odour. If you are planning on cooking it at home it is important to eat the mackerel on the day of purchase as it can spoil quickly. Alternatively you can freeze or smoke the fish for use later.

Mackerel has a distinctive fishy flavour which can put some people off, however when it is cooked using the correct methods and with the right ingredients, mackerel is a versatile and delicious fish. It can be cooked in a variety of ways including frying, baking, grilling and tastes great as a pâté

For a quick and easy snack try these mackerel topped crackers from Fish is the Dish.

Plymouth Trawler Agents

Thousands of tonnes of fish are landed at Plymouth Fisheries each year, or landed at smaller South West fishing ports and transported to the fisheries complex by road, in order to be sold at the daily auction managed by Plymouth Trawler Agents.

To find out more about other fish are available throughout the year, visit the PTA website here.


Temporary bridge across Sutton Harbour to open next month

A temporary walkway is opening across Sutton Harbour Lock to help people cross the harbour while the pedestrian footbridge is closed for repairs.

People will be able to use a new walkway across the inner lock gates for short periods of time in the day, depending on waiting marine traffic, tides and freeflow times, to cross from the historic Barbican Quarter to the Fishing Quarter and to visit the National Marine Aquarium and Rockfish restaurant.  This temporary walkway will be in addition to the option of catching the daily Sutton Harbour Ferry Service or walking around East Quay and North Quay, which form the City Quarter and Leisure Quarter of Sutton Harbour.

The temporary solution will not be suitable for small children, pushchairs, prams, bicycles, wheelchairs or anyone with mobility issues, as it involves steps and a narrow, single-file, adapted path crossing the industrial inner lock gates, which were not designed for pedestrian use.

It is hoped that the temporary walkway, when combined with the daily ferry service and the short walking route around the harbour, will make it easier for people to journey across Sutton Harbour while work continues to progress permanent repairs to the footbridge.

Cllr Tudor Evans, Leader of Plymouth City Council, said: “I’m thrilled to have approved this plan to create a temporary walkway across Sutton Lock to make it easier for people to cross the harbour, and to support the key businesses in Plymouth which rely on this route. Getting action on this has been an early priority for the new council.

“We are working hard to get everything in place so the walkway can open in an estimated three weeks’ time, whilst we push forward on progressing permanent repairs to the footbridge. I am keen to see the Sutton Harbour footbridge reopen for the benefit of Britain’s Ocean City as a whole and want to see the repairs start as soon as possible with no further delays.”

Permission to use the interior lock gates for a temporary new walkway has been granted by Sutton Harbour Holdings plc and public liability insurances are being put in place. Infrastructure such as new fencing will now be ordered, and trained marshals will be hired to help manage the crossings. It is hoped the walkway can open in three weeks’ time if preparatory work completes as planned.

The temporary walkway will only be able to open for pedestrians when the lock gates are closed and no vessels are waiting to come through the lock into Sutton Harbour; should boats arrive and need to use the lock, the walkway will have to close, and people may face waits of up to 30-40 minutes on either side for it to reopen. The walkway may also need to close for tidal and other operational issues.

No official times for the walkway opening periods can be scheduled as a result of the lock having to remain active for marine traffic as it is required, but notice boards and signs will be installed on both sides of the harbour to let people know the time of the next expected crossing. Each crossing will be one-way only, as the pathway is too narrow for more than one person at a time to use it, and people will need to wait at holding points by West Pier and Rockfish restaurant until the gates are fully closed and secured.

Pete Bromley, Harbour Master for Sutton Harbour, said: “We appreciate that the Sutton Harbour footbridge being out of action causes a major inconvenience for people living and working locally, as well as for visitors to the harbour, and we are working closely with the city council and Environment Agency to expedite repairs, as well as to offer people other ways of crossing the harbour, such as funding the set-up of the Sutton Harbour Ferry Service, and subsiding this over the school holidays. People will now have a third option with the temporary walkway open across the back lock gates which should help in the interim.

“We’d advise that this may involve a wait, as naturally we have to prioritise letting fishing boats through the lock to unload their catch, as well as leisure boats needing to come in and out of Sutton Harbour, but we will make waiting times clear and people will have the option of using this temporary walkway to cross directly if they would like to, rather than catching the ferry or walking around the harbour.”

Mitch Tonks, owner of the Rockfish restaurant chain, said: “This is fantastic news and we are really happy that people will have an easier way to visit Rockfish from the historic Barbican side of the harbour while we wait for the bridge repairs to complete. We will have staff leading people across and providing information on access timings, and our ice cream kiosk, take away and outside seating area will be available for people using the temporary access.”

Roger Maslin, Chief Executive Officer at the National Marine Aquarium, said: “We’re very happy that this temporary walkway has been agreed and will soon be available to make it easier for people to visit the aquarium, along with the daily ferry service. We are working with Rockfish and the city council’s events team to help promote this route and will help to make it clear when the opening times will be on a daily basis, as well as to offer fun and engaging activities on both sides of the harbour for people waiting to cross the temporary walkway.”

It is hoped that permanent repairs to the pedestrian footbridge will complete in time for the bridge to reopen during the autumn. Delays have been caused to the original timescale because the repair is a highly complex process owing to the bespoke nature of the footbridge, and a new bearing has to be manufactured especially for the bridge turntable.

Specialist manufacturers have advised that the design and production process can take up to six months before the new bearing can be fitted.

An agreement was reached in December 2017 between Plymouth City Council, the Environment Agency and Sutton Harbour Holdings plc to repair the custom-built footbridge, and these repairs are being commissioned by Plymouth City Council.

The bridge was fitted more than 20 years ago as part of the installation of the Sutton Harbour lock gates, whose main function is to manage any flood risk and allow marine traffic, such as fishing boats, to enter Sutton Harbour. The lock gates themselves remain fully operational, and must do so to enable fishing boats and leisure boats to access the harbour.

Plymouth City Council, Sutton Harbour Holdings plc and the Environment Agency continue to meet monthly to discuss the progress of repairs, along with key tenants such as the National Marine Aquarium and Rockfish restaurant, and to ensure the process is expedited.

The Sutton Harbour Ferry Service is operating daily between Lockyers Quay and Barbican West Pier, subsidised by Sutton Harbour Holdings plc during peak school holiday periods, and the ticket price is refunded for customers when they visit the NMA café or shop, or eat at Rockfish.

Daily updates on operating times for the ferry, which is run by Silverline Cruises, are available at the ferry’s Facebook page

A walking route around the harbour is accessible via the Harbour Heritage Trail, with a one-mile footpath circling around East Quay and North Quay.

Brown Crab - a tasty, sustainable seafood


Brown crab is a species of crab which can be found in waters all the way from Norway in the North Sea down through the English Channel and along to the coast of Portugal.

As the nation’s favourite crustacean, brown crab is commonly eaten whole, in crab cakes, or used in a range of seafood dishes. Crabs contain both brown and white meat. The soft, flavoursome brown meat tends to be the most popular choice for dishes with the white meat having a slightly more delicate flavour.

Brown crab is actually one of the most sustainable seafood species you can choose all year around. This is due to its widespread distribution, quick reproduction rate and the use of crab pots by fishermen to catch them. Crab pots limit the damage to the seabed which can be caused by some fishing methods. They also make it easier for fishermen to return any unwanted or undersized catches back to the sea.  

The stocks of brown crab in the South West have remained healthy thanks to good fishing practises and regulations. Each year, hundreds of kilos of crab is landed at Plymouth Fisheries before being sold to local businesses or transported further afield. If you are interested in purchasing crab landed at Plymouth Fisheries contact two of our leading fish merchants based at the Fisheries Complex - Rex Down Fish Merchants or Moby Nicks.

When buying crab it is important to ensure that it is fresh and recently caught. Don’t buy crabs which are already dead ideally, as they are best cooked immediately after killing. You can always ask your fishmonger to kill the crab for you just before you take it home, if you are not comfortable with taking them home alive.

Fresh brown crab is easy to cook however – and if you buy them live, the RSPCA recommend freezing a crab for at least two hours before cooking, in order to render them unconscious first. The crab can then be placed legs down into a pan containing boiling water or stock. Simmer in the pan for 12 minutes per kilo of crab before removing the pan from the heat and enjoying, or leaving to cool if you’re using the crab meat in a recipe.

Preparing crab meat can be messy and does require some manual work.

BBC Good Food provide a great step by step guide on how to prepare crab which can be found online. After the crab has been deshelled and the meat has been prepared it can be used in a dish of your choice.

You can find a selection of recipes which use crab meat on Fish is the Dish’s website here.

Seasonal and Sustainable Seafood – November’s Mussels

Seasonal and Sustainable Seafood – November’s Mussels

Sustainability plays a major part in determining what fish are landed at Plymouth Fisheries every day. Sustainable seafood means it is either fished or farmed in a responsible way, which maintains or improves the population and quality of the fish. Using seasonal and sustainable seafood is an important step to ensuring the longevity of the fishing industry.

French Students tour Plymouth Fisheries

A group of French students enjoyed the opportunity to see behind the scenes at Plymouth Fisheries, the second largest fresh fish market in England, during a visit to Britain’s Ocean City this month.

Ten students aged 15 and 16 years old were visiting Plymouth from Brest as part of an Oceans and Sustainability ERASUMUS + Regio Brest-Plymouth project, organised in conjunction with Mayflower College and Plymstock School.

The students, along with their teacher Dominique Baron, visited the fisheries in Sutton Harbour for an early morning tour hosted by Manager Pete Bromley at 6.30am, when fish was being sorted and sold, ready to be delivered to buyers all over the country, with the daily fish auction managed by Plymouth Trawler Agents taking place on the first floor.

The visit helped the students to learn more about how Plymouth Fisheries has become a fisheries hub for the South West, and how it has revitalized the region’s fishing industry in the last two decades since the complex was relocated to custom-built premises on the eastern side of Sutton Harbour in 1995.

Jill Tyler, General Manager of Mayflower College, said: “This group of French students visiting Plymouth were very grateful to be given a personal tour by Pete Bromley so they could see behind the scenes at our city’s thriving fish market, and find out more about how Plymouth Fisheries operates.

“The fisheries is such an important asset for the city, and the visit offered a unique and essential window for our visiting students into how important the fishing industry is to our region, and how Plymouth Fisheries works to manage sustainability on a daily basis.”

Plymouth Fisheries sustains over 600 direct and indirect jobs and is the second largest fresh fish market in England today, with fish landed at other ports across Devon and Cornwall regularly transported to Plymouth to be sold.

The fisheries, which is owned and managed by Sutton Harbour Holdings Plc, contributes £22.6 million into the local economy. Turnover has increased dramatically since the fisheries relocated to its current base, with record landings of £19.4 million in 2014. Sutton Harbour Holdings Plc continues to invest in the complex, with a £1.2million project to install a new chill chain, including a new ice production plant, completed last year.

Pete Bromley, Manager of Plymouth Fisheries, said: “It’s important to educate people about how the fishing industry works, especially the next generation, and so we regularly welcome private tours for local colleges and schools to help students learn more about the fish supply chain and see the market in action.

“Plymouth Fisheries is passionate about supporting the region’s fishermen, and thanks to the investment in the fisheries in recent years, the complex has become a fisheries hub for the South West, so our role is especially important.”

The students visit to Plymouth Fisheries is one of a number of educational tours hosted by Pete Bromley and Sutton Harbour Holdings Plc to support ongoing education about the fishing industry to the next generation.

In recent months, the fisheries has hosted tours for business students from Plymouth University, as well as year 7 pupils from the Plymouth School of Creative Arts.