Have Your Hake and Eat It

18th March 2014 in Sustainability / Environment

Leading Chef and UK Fishing Industry Unite To Champion Hake as UK’s Current Most Sustainable Fish

Have Your Hake and Eat It

The voice of the UK fishing industry and one of the country’s leading seafood chefs have joined forces to encourage British restaurants and retailers to put hake on the menu after finding it to currently be the ‘UK’s most sustainable fish’.

The campaign comes after new research* revealed that half of us (52 per cent) eat fish at least once a week and one in five (19 per cent) eat it around three times a week – yet the majority of people rarely stray from the ‘seafood staples’ of cod, haddock and salmon.

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), which represents fishermen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has joined forces with leading seafood chef, food writer and restaurateur Mitch Tonks to launch a series of free recipe cards encouraging the British public to consider hake in their diet, after crowning it the ‘UK’s most sustainable fish’.

Hake was named as the UK’s current sustainability champion fish after the NFFO conducted an evaluation of stock and catch data against a criteria of 10 industry sustainability markers. Hake, against very stiff competition from other species, currently meets more of the standards than any other species.

The Food Standards Agency recommends eating at least two portions of fish a week (1). Hake, a species closely related to cod and haddock, is commonly eaten in Europe, with the Spanish annually consuming 6kg per person – equating to around half of all hake eaten across the continent. With scientific research showing burgeoning stock levels of hake in UK waters(2), catch quota for the fish has been increased by 49 per cent in 2014. However, of the 12,000 tonnes of hake caught by British fishermen last year, just 1.5 per cent was consumed in the UK.

Despite the popularity of fish as a healthy food source, NFFO research* spanning 1,000 consumers revealed many fish eaters have never tried some of the UK’s most sustainable fish species. Around half of people surveyed had never tried hake (53 per cent) or pollock (47 per cent), whilst two thirds of people (62 per cent) had never tried coley.

The top reasons people cited for not trying alternative types of fish included the retail price (30 per cent), not liking the look of the fish / considering it ugly (24 per cent) and poor availability in supermarkets (11 per cent).

To identify the most sustainable fish, the federation identified those stocks fished at or above maximum sustainable yield (MSY) – considered the gold standard of sustainable fishing. This measures the maximum catch that can be removed from the sea without jeopardising its future. Hake also adheres to a number of other sustainability markers identified by the NFFO.

The NFFO’s chief executive, Barrie Deas, said: “In the last decade, the UK fishing industry has worked closely with scientists to improve the sustainability of commercial fishing, developing more selective gear and catching methods which reduce the ecological footprint of fishing. Over that time we have witnessed a dramatic reduction in fishing pressure across all of the main species groups and across the North East Atlantic fish stocks are building, some very rapidly.

“In the sustainability stakes I’m pleased to say hake faces stiff competition as many stocks, including plaice, haddock, herring and sole, ticked many of the boxes. In some stocks, including cod, mortality rates have been halved pushing them up the sustainability rankings. UK fishermen realise that their future is intimately linked to the way that they fish and now sustainability is at the heart of everything they do.

Mitch Tonks added: “Anything we can do to encourage people to try more fresh, sustainable fish whilst supporting UK fishermen can only be a good thing. Hake is always a popular option at my own restaurants and it’s readily available through fishmongers and retailers. It’s a white fish which is simple to adapt different recipes and flavours to and as such I hope more people give it a try.”

(1) Food Standards Agency: What is a healthy balanced diet? http://food.gov.uk/scotland/scotnut/healthycatering/healthycatering2/healthycatering02#.Ut0CEfTFLsM

(2) International Council for the Exploration of the Sea’s (ICES) advice on hake http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2013/2013/hke-nrth.pdf