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Following the release of new scientific research that shows the stocks of many commercial fish species have reached the ‘gold standard’ of sustainability, the nation’s fishermen have joined forces with Masterchef presenter and food writer Gregg Wallace to encourage more people to try new types of home caught fish.
The initiative, dubbed ‘Deck to Dinner’, is being run by the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) following new research*, which has revealed that despite two thirds of us now eating fish once a week and supermarkets reporting increases in wet fish sales**, the majority of us (90%) are only comfortable cooking familiar fish that is pre prepared.
According to the NFFO, whilst some of the big ‘seafood staples’ including cod and haddock have seen a dramatic resurgence in sustainability over recent years, this success is paralleled by many other tasty and highly sustainable species that rarely grace the tables of home diners, from megrim to mackerel and crab to coley.
Statistics released last month by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) show there has been a ‘dramatic reduction in fishing pressure’ across North Atlantic commercial fish stocks as a result of strict management plans. The data shows that between 2006 and 2015, the number of stocks fished at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) – the gold standard for sustainable fishing - increased from two to 36.
Deck to Dinner will see Wallace and a team of nationally recognised, award winning chefs join forces with the fishermen themselves to create a series of ‘easy to cook’ recipes for what the NFFO calls its ‘Magnificent Seven of Sustainable Seafood’ - crab, megrim, plaice, coley, mackerel, hake and gurnard.
To arrive at the seven species the NFFO evaluated the latest stock and catch data against a criteria of  industry sustainability markers. These include those stocks fished at or above maximum sustainable yield.
With recipes available free from here, the initiative is designed to show more unusual species can be just as easy to cook as the ‘big five’ - salmon, cod, haddock, tuna and prawns - which according to the latest data from Seafish*** now command over 70 per cent of all UK seafood sales – a percentage increasing year on year.
Gregg Wallace, TV personality and host of Deck to Dinner, said: “It’s interesting to see from the new research that despite over eighty percent of people saying they prefer to eat seafood at home rather than in a restaurant, the majority stick to the same two or three species. Deck to Dinner is all about showing people the breadth and variety of sustainable seafood offered by the UK fleet and most importantly how easy it is to prepare a simple yet delicious, nutritious and often more affordable meal at home.”
“Fish is one of the healthiest and tastiest food options out there and hopefully through Deck to Dinner people will find a new and unusual favourite!”
Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the NFFO, said: “The last decade has seen a major attitudinal shift within the industry and fishermen now place sustainability at the heart of operations because it’s in their best interests to do so. This is now paying dividends as seen in the most recent scientific findings.
“The UK fleet catches a variety of unique, delicious and highly sustainable fish that are regularly overlooked. Deck to Dinner is all about championing these and the fact some of these fish are at the more affordable end of the market means people’s taste buds, wallets and conscience will benefit from eating them.”
Over eight million kilogrammes of fish is devoured every week by UK adults, with this predicted to increase to over nine million by 2026.
Other survey findings reveal the popularity of fish was put down to a variety of factors, with most respondents citing the taste (39.5 per cent) and its health benefits (33.3 per cent) as the main reasons behind their choice. A further 22.1 per cent said they chose fish in an effort to get some variety in their diet.