Wednesday,11 May,2011 14:06:19
Following ESE those of us that travel a long way have the opportunity to look around Europe and see what is happening with seafood in a major market place.
Discussions with the people at consumer end of the industry, the retailers who deal every day with the seafood buying public, strongly confirm my own observations. That is that it is rare than anyone who actually hands over cash for their seafood ever asks questions about sustainability!
When was the last time you ate at a restaurant and asked to see their Food Safety Plan – it is presumed if a business is open that it is meeting all the rules and regulations. The same applies with sustainability and whilst that may be a subject over dinner when it comes to the time of buying food we simply are too time poor to have such discussions with our food purveyors – we assume they are doing the right thing.
So when we were checking out the Oxford Street, London scene with the large supermarket stores it was surprising to see Selfridges ‘Project Ocean’ campaign. The launch of this is 11 May. Selfridges have teamed up with a host of environmental organizations including The Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Greenpeace to apparently ‘help their customers get greener and help our oceans’. Oh dear…
Of course they have created an ‘easy to understand guide to what fish to eat and what to avoid, to interactive exhibitions, films and lively debates, we’ll help you understand the issues and how you can help’ according to the information provided. The guide seems to indicate that the Marine Conservation Society are the ‘authority’ on all things seafood, which is strange as I assumed it would be the Government that was in charge of the resources of this sceptred isle, this green and pleasant land.
The guide indicates that wild caught Tiger and King Prawns are to be avoided altogether. I have picked on this as in Australia we have proven sustainable Wild Prawn supplies. The fishermen have made enormous efforts to create their plans and they are dedicated to their processes and added to this our Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig said yesterday “"The Environment Protection Biosecurity and Conservation Act specifically protects matters of national significance, including nationally listed threatened species. The Act sets out the obligations of fishers to take all reasonable steps to avoid interacting with listed threatened species. Australian fisheries and fisheries management is some of the most sophisticated in the world. The result is a highly sustainable industry.” This seemingly holds no credence with Selfridges and their partners.
What a shame an organization like Selfridges does not take a positive slant to their ‘promotion’ of seafood. Less than a few miles away from Selfridges Professor Michael Crawford and his team of medical researchers operate at Imperial College. Michael would say to Selfridges something like -With the brain evolving some 500- 600 million years ago in the sea, and still using marine nutrients DHA in particular but in addition all the trace elements like iodine, zinc and selenium it is essential that we not only promote seafood consumption but find innovative sustainable ways of developing agriculture in the sea and learning from the mistakes we made on land. The land is increasingly being depleted of these key elements. Even if it was not for modern intensive agriculture (no-organic of course) it happens to rain and that washes the stuff from the land into the sea!
We ignore these simple facts at our peril. The signal that brain disorders have overtaken all other burdens of ill health cannot be a clearer message. Its escalation leads to the unthinkable.
Selfridges through the project are now involved in a MPA created by ZSL which will now be named the ‘Selfridges MPA’ and is situated in the Philippines – the relevance of that area is not clear but maybe it is a favorite holiday spot of the key people at Selfridges. A look at the Selfridges seafood counter could not identify any Philippines product and apart from a specials blackboard which highlighted the fish of the day and specifically had in large letters ‘SUSTAINABLE’ there was no real signs of specific messages to the customers. This seems to me strongly like a ‘little bit of knowledge is dangerous thing’ especially as it comes out on a day when some University of Washington scientists have just published a study in the journal Conservation (with Rutgers University and Dalhousie University involvement) arguing that the dark and gloomy predictions about the world's fisheries are significantly over exaggerated.
The world of seafood will not be saved by Marine Parks but it seems that some of the wealthy hierarchy at Selfridges have decided this may be a coup for them but surely if they are worried about selling seafood that much shouldn’t they pull out all together and stop buying and selling seafood and save themselves the heartache.
I wonder if they are doing the same at the other food counters in their stores or are they even looking at all the marvelous fashions on display ensuring that there are no issues with illegal or child labor in their manufacture? Am I expecting too much with a level playing field?
Meanwhile at Billingsgate Fish Market there was a low key promotion by the Independent Fish & Chip Shops “Support Fish Friday”, small and basic without all the fanfare of a large supermarket chain but a very positive industry led initiative. Let us hope this is more successful of the two promotions….