We’re a pretty unadventurous bunch, us Brits. 80% of the seafood we eat is made up of just five species: cod, haddock, salmon, tuna and prawns. Not only is that boring, but it’s pretty unsustainable. We’re putting heavy pressure on a handful of species and importing two thirds of the fish we eat.
You hear the word sustainability a lot these days. The funny thing is that we don’t actually have an agreed definition for it. While it’s brilliant that more and more people and businesses are thinking about their impact on the planet, some are just jumping on the sustainability bandwagon rather than making genuine change.
When we set up SoleShare, we set out to sell fish differently, to come up with a model that we thought was genuinely sustainable. We both have backgrounds in marine biology and conservation. A bit of a leap going from swimming with fish to selling it! But our experiences at sea inspired us to do something different, something tangible that would have a positive impact on how we interacted with our oceans and the people that rely on it for their livelihoods.
We work with fishermen from the inshore fishing fleet. These guys fish from small day boats – all under 10m long. They use static fishing gear, hand lines and pots, all of which have an inherently low impact on the seabed. They’re also much more selective which means they don’t tend to catch things they’re not supposed to – like undersized fish that haven’t reached maturity.
Environmental sustainability forms a big part of the sustainability picture – it’s what most companies think about and a core part of why we set up SoleShare in the first place. While it’s hugely important in terms of the long term health of our oceans, there are two more facets to sustainability that are incredibly important but often forgotten.
While our fishermen use some of the most environmentally sustainable methods around, their jobs aren’t economically sustainable. Despite making up nearly 80% of the British fleet, inshore boats are only allowed to catch 4% of the fish. The bigger boys tend to get their hands on all the fish – for example, there happens to be one giant boat out there that is currently allowed to catch 23% of the entire British quota for fish.
Despite small-scale fishers landing fish and seafood of amazing quality, they often receive poor prices at the dock. A lot of their catch is exported to places like France and Spain, where they still eat the kind of fish that our boats are catching.
One of the reasons people buy salmon steaks in plastic boxes from supermarkets is because they don’t know how to cook a plaice or a herring. As a nation, we’ve forgotten how to cook the fish that a hundred years ago formed a huge part of our diets. This is the social aspect of sustainability. We’ve become zombified in our shopping habits, buying the same (bland and boring) things every week.
How do we eat fish more sustainably?
First of all, and this might sound crazy coming from someone that sells fish for a living, but we shouldn’t eat fish every day. We probably shouldn’t eat animal protein more than a few times a week, the planet can’t handle that kind of pressure, there are simply too many mouths to feed.
We need to eat better fish and eat fish better. Try not to buy salmon from a supermarket. If you live on the coast, try to find some local, dayboat fish. If you live in a city, go to your local fishmonger, they need your support! They should have a good selection of British fish and hopefully will be able to tell you where everything’s from and how it was caught. Be adventurous and ask questions- they’re there to help you. Try something new and have a look online for recipes and tips on how to cook and prepare fish. There’s a whole world of resources right at your fingertips. Our website covers pretty much every species we get in the UK, with recipes & videos on how to prep them.
If you live in London, you could sign up to SoleShare, we pay our fishermen a fair price for their catch, and you’ll get your hands on a seasonal selection of sustainable seafood, straight from the guy that caught it.