Our fish policy
At a glance
- We buy our wild sea fish directly from UK day boat fishers whose methods of capture have minimal discards and whose other environmental impacts are extremely low.
- We order from the whole catch, often before it’s even been landed, and the fish is then delivered within a few hours of being caught. You’ll struggle to find fresher fish anywhere in the capital.
- When the weather’s bad for sea fishing, we buy Soil Association certified organically farmed salmon and trout – guaranteeing exemplary welfare and sustainability standards compared to conventional fish farming
- Our shellfish and seafood all comes from verifiably sustainable UK sources, such as diver gathered scallops and rope grown mussels.
- We’ve had Marine Stewardship Council certification since 2007 and continue to buy MSC-certified fish from UK fisheries as and when we can.
We have always had a strict fish buying policy, with the aim, as with all our policies, of minimising the environmental impact of the business. We’ve always sourced all our fish from UK fisheries, thus avoiding some of the more obvious problematic species such as tuna, swordfish and warm water prawns. And we’ve never bought wild salmon and trout, since stocks are so depleted.
As a result of this approach, we were the very first restaurant in the UK to have our fish buying policy approved by the Marine Conservation Society in 2001. The MCS publishes regularly updated details of fish to eat and to fish to avoid. We were therefore compelled not to buy fish they classify as “to avoid”.
In 2007 we also gained Marine Stewardship Council certification, allowing us to use the “Blue Tick” eco-label on our menus for fish sourced from MSC certified fisheries. This guarantees boat to plate traceability from fisheries that have been assessed as sustainable in terms of method of capture and stock levels. We buy MSC fish from certified UK fisheries as and when we can. But with few MSC fisheries in UK waters, the variety of MSC fish is limited and availability sporadic.
Even with all these achievements under our belt, down the years it was difficult at times to know with certainty how some fish we were buying had been caught. For example, a supplier could tell us where their pollack was landed, but could not guarantee how it was caught – or did not want to let us know it came from a trawler because they knew we wouldn’t want it!
Almost all trawling for fish is extremely indiscriminate and damaging to the marine environment, scooping up everything in the path of the nets. The EU estimates that around 50% of all fish caught in the North Sea is discarded - thrown back into the sea, dead, and that figure comes mostly to trawling. That is a staggering amount, and we certainly didn’t want to contribute to that figure through our purchasing.
A new policy for changing circumstances
And so, in January 2013 we decided to pursue a different tack with our fish policy. We are in the fortunate position of being able to buy directly from fishing fleets. Those which are fishing seasonally and in the most sustainable way. These small, inshore fleets have minimal impact on fish stocks and on the local marine environments they fish in. Still, they may have ling or plaice on board, which are classed as fish to avoid by the MCS. But by not buying these fish, we are encouraging waste. This seems fundamentally wrong to us.
Our new policy is simple – we buy our wild sea fish direct from fishing fleets that have been scientifically inspected for the sustainability of their capture methods. This means we know the individual boats and the kinds of gear (nets, lines, etc) they carry. We also buy from the whole catch, since not doing so is counterproductive, encouraging unsold fish to go to waste. This change means we have a greater variety of fish on our menus, but sometimes there will be species that are rated as fish to avoid by the MCS. However, we think it most important to first consider how the fish was caught.
Our new main supplier of wild sea fish is a wonderful fishing family based in Cornwall - Kernowsashimi. Sustainable fishing is at their very heart. Alongside the catch from their own boat, they supply us with fish from a small number of other vessels fishing the same waters. The fleet is monitored regularly by marine biologist, Malcolm MacGarvin, helping ensure best practice. These small day boats only fish in shallow coastal waters and avoid species during their breeding seasons. They use gill nets, which allow juvenile fish to escape, hand lines, and jigs to catch squid. These methods are extremely targeted, meaning they have little or no by catch, and so virtually nothing has to be discarded. If everyone fished like this, the present catastrophic crisis in the seas would be avoided. We are also constantly on the look out for supplementary supplies of top quality, sustainably caught fish from similarly monitored sources.
We continue to buy a range of sustainably sourced shellfish and seafood from our other suppliers, such as diver-gathered scallops from Mull. For the times when the seas are rough, we buy Soil Association-certified organically farmed salmon and trout from UK sources. Soil Association standards are a world apart from those which govern conventional fish farming, with much stricter controls on feeds, stocking densities, use of veterinary treatments and much more.
Always supporting best practice
Our aim in this policy change is to support best practice in our fishing communities in the same way we support farmers and growers with their best practice. We also continue to lend our wholehearted support to the MCS in their vital work. Their traffic light rating system is straightforward to apply – avoid red rated fish and eat green rated fish. This is a simple and practical message to give to us as consumers when out shopping for fish. We also recommend using these guidelines when eating out, and to ask questions about the fish on our, or anybody else’s, menus. Knowing how your fish was caught is a vital part of making an informed choice, and the more people ask, the more restaurateurs, suppliers and the fishing industry as a whole will take note and change their ways.
Fish Workshop & Lunch at The Duke
Saturday, June 1st 2013. 10am – 2:30pm
Ever wanted to improve your fish filleting skills?
Always wondered what the life of an inshore fisherman is like?
Fancy taking home some amazingly fresh fish?
We are delighted to offer you this rare chance to learn from a true veteran of the sea, and our favourite fisherman, Chris Bean. He will be coming up to London from Cornwall especially to offer you the chance to improve your fish handling skills, and to give you an insight into his life as a Cornish fisherman. Head Chef Benoit Beranger will also be on hand to demonstrate some fishy recipe ideas, before putting on a delicious three course lunch, accompanied by wines to match.
Chris has been fishing for over 40 years, and currently fishes the waters of the Falmouth Bay area in Cornwall for his family business, Kernowsashimi. His wife, son and daughter-in-law run the onshore activities. Chris and daughter Lorna do the fishing from their day boat Lady Hamilton. Their methods are regularly monitored by marine biologists for the impact they have on stocks and the surrounding marine environment. In fact, Chris is a bit of a pin-up for many marine conservationists and it's a huge privilege for us to have him come to visit The Duke.
Cost for the workshop is £75 per person, inclusive of morning coffee, three course lunch with wine, plus fish to take home (that you will have expertly prepared yourself in the morning).
For more information and to book, please call the pub on 0207 3593066 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.