Plymouth has become the first city in the UK to achieve its Blue City sustainable seafood award. The Fish2fork Blue City award has been created to recognise and highlight communities which use seafood from sustainable sources.
Plymouth qualified as the inaugural Blue City because just over half its restaurants have earned a blue fish rating from Fish2fork, with many of those restaurants based at Sutton Harbour and Plymouth’s Barbican.
Tim Glover, co-founder and managing director of Fish2fork, said: “This is a marvellous achievement by Plymouth. The city is to be congratulated for its attitude to marine sustainability. In particular, we are delighted at the way in which Plymouth’s restaurants have risen to the challenge of seafood sustainability. Many of them have made changes to menus and provided more information to customers about the origins of their seafood in order for the city to win the award.”
“We hope that after our engagement with the restaurants that they have a better understanding of how to ensure their menus feature seafood from sustainable sources – we appreciate it’s not always easy but it is important if healthy supplies of fish and shellfish are to be maintained over the coming decades, especially with pressure on the food chain rising with the human population expanding globally. We consider sustainability to be an essential ingredient of good seafood. Many restaurants – in Plymouth and across the UK – consider it a virtue that they buy locally. We would urge them to remember that local does not necessarily mean sustainable.”
Paul Cox, Director of Conservation and Communication at the National Marine Aquarium said: “The Blue City award is an excellent achievement for the city and credit must go to the restaurants that are demonstrating such good practice. This is a real feather in the cap for the City.”
Tudor Evans, Plymouth City Council’s Leader, said: “This is fantastic! We are the very first city in the UK to have won this award. We are proud to say we are a Blue City.”
Chief Executive of Destination Plymouth, Amanda Lumley, added: “With many high profile restaurants in the city it is important to showcase the fact that the fish they serve is sourced sustainably.”
During its assessment of Plymouth, whitebait, king and tiger prawns, cod and seabass were identified as the most problematic types of seafood.
Whitebait, which is classed as a ‘fish to avoid’ by the Marine Conservation Society because it consists of small, juvenile fish that have never had the chance to breed and thereby restock the population, was found to be served by at least 13 restaurants in Plymouth.
King and tiger prawns were served by 53 of the 76 restaurants but only six were able to demonstrate that they had used supplies from farms or fisheries certified as sustainably managed. Many sources of farmed king and tiger prawns are on the MCS’s list of seafood that should be avoided. Farmed supplies can cause or worsen overfishing because the prawns are fed on fishmeal produced from wild fish.
Seabass was found to be served by 32 restaurants in Plymouth and the Fish2fork ratings for 20 of them suffered because of its use. The problem isn’t necessarily the use of the fish but the lack of information about the source. In UK waters seabass is suffering from a rapid population decline and scientists have called for catches to be reduced dramatically.
The MCS, which bases its assessments on scientific data, considers trawled sea bass to be a fish to avoid yet it is quite possible some of the 32 restaurants were using line-caught supplies, a technique considered to be a less damaging form of capture. Equally, it is possible to buy farmed seabass but only 6 of the 32 restaurants made clear that they were using such a supply.
The key issue for seabass, from Fish2fork’s perspective, isn’t necessarily the source of the fish but the failure of some restaurants to say clearly where theirs originated. Fish2fork considers it important that it is clear to diners where a restaurant gets its seafood – how else can a consumer make an informed choice about which dish they can eat with a clear conscience?
Seabass is also a fish that serves as a reminder that just because it is caught locally does not necessarily mean it is sustainable.
Professor Martin Attrill, Director of the Marine Institute at Plymouth University, said: “We need to reconnect our communities with their fishing industry and their local catches that are obtained sustainably – and as this award shows, Plymouth is leading the way.”