Certified sustainable fish
- Donald Reid
- 30 April 2009
To buy fish ethically look out for the blue logo of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), awarded to more than 40 sustainable fisheries worldwide. Under chef Roy Brett, the Grill at Dakota Forthbridge has become the first Scottish restaurant eligible to highlight MSC-certified fish on its menu.
South African hake
One of the most easily available MSC-labelled seafood products, hake are deep-sea members of the cod family. Although they have a more subtle flavour than cod, they are considered one of the best fish in the whiting family because of their firm, sweet, white meat and medium flake. Certified hake will soon be available at the Anstruther Fish Bar, the second restaurant in Scotland to earn the MSC’s approval.
Herring (North Sea)
The North Sea herring fleet within the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group (SPSG) was, in 2008, the first large-scale fishery in the UK to comply with the MSC standards. North Sea herring has creamy coloured meat, a mild taste and a high oil content. It is mostly processed for smoking (into kippers), curing or canning, but fresh herring is excellent in its own right – coated in oatmeal and pan fried.
Stornoway nephrops (Langoustine)
A creel-based fishery in Loch Torridon is currently certified by the MSC; the Stornoway fleet use otter trawling gear to catch langoustine in the Minch, with a lifting bag employed to reduce the impact on the seabed. The vast majority of the Stornoway catch is bought by Young’s seafood, and ends up as scampi on the domestic UK market.
In 2006 this fishery became the first certified sustainable source of cod. Working in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska, the fishermen use longlines to catch the fish, which are immediately frozen in the boats’ holds. ‘If fish is frozen at sea, it’s often fresher than fish sold as “fresh”,’ says Roy Brett. Cod works well in a curry, taking up the flavours but keeping its texture.
Mackerel (North Sea)
Recently achieving MSC certification, the SPSG mackerel fishery caught 95,700 tonnes of the fish in 2007. Operating in the North Sea, the 21 boats use a mid-water trawl, so avoiding contact with habitats and structures on the sea bed. Mackerel is an oily fish, but valued for its robust flavours and texture. MSC-labelled Scottish mackerel is now available from Marks and Spencer.
These fish are caught on handlines, with 25–30 hooks, by a fleet of 150 boats with exclusive rights to fish between Start Point and Hartland Point off the south-west coast of England. One of the more widely found MSC-certified products (available in Tesco and Waitrose), it’s available in the fishing season between September and April. The fish are also smoked, cured and frozen.
More guidance at www.msc.org