Q&A: Fighting the frozen-at-sea stigma
By Nicki Holmyard, SeafoodSource contributing editor
19 April, 2011
The Frozen At Sea Fillets Association (FASFA), based in the United Kingdom, recently
tasked director John Rutherford with improving the sustainability and quality
image of its members’ products and with making the organization more
dynamic. SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Nicki Holmyard caught up with
him to find out how he plans to deliver this.
Holmyard: Why do you need an association for vessels freezing
fillets at sea?
Frozen At Sea Fillets Association was set up in 2000 to supply positive
information about haddock and cod from the Barents Sea and Iceland, in the
face of adverse publicity about cod stocks.Today more then ever, we need to tell people they can eat cod with a
clear conscience, because it still gets far too much bad press, which is
Who are your
vessel owners from France, Spain, Norway,
Iceland, the Netherlands, Russia,
Denmark and the UK.We also include importers and distributors in
What is special
about frozen-at-sea fillets?
Filleting at sea is a clever
option for adding value to seafood, although it involves more work and a higher
cost.By freezing fillets within four to five hours
of the catch, we can produce a very high quality product that is better than
fish filleted and frozen after eight to10 days at sea, or double frozen imports.Our members put more than 50,000 tons of
fillets onto the market each year, which is a lot of fish.
Where are your
are sold in retail outlets and used in the foodservice sector and ready-meal
chain, but more than half the production goes to fish-and-chip shops in the UK, and this is
a crucial market for us.There are around 8,500 fish-and-chip outlets,
and 90 percent of these use a frozen product for convenience.
What are the
benefits for customers?
Frozen-at-sea fillets are a high quality commodity
that can be released onto the market in a controlled way.They enable large-scale customers to avoid pricing
problems caused by the vagaries of the supply chain and smaller customers to
deal with fluctuating customer demand.They are portion controlled, readily available and, when defrosted and
cooked, taste as good as fresh.
are the stocks?
The stocks are all well managed and sustainable; some are
Marine Stewardship Council certified, and some come under the Icelandic and Norwegian government
schemes, both of which are robust and science-based.Research shows that more and more people want
sustainable fish, and we make it easy for them to take that choice.
What is your plan
Firstly, we plan to improve the consumer
image of frozen fish.There is still a
perception that it is second tier, that fish on the fresh counter is
better.The truth is, “fresh” fish is
often sold on the defrost and is ambiguously labelled.We want consumers to see frozen-at-sea fish
as an excellent, high quality and convenient choice. To achieve this, I aim for frozen-at-sea fish to be accepted
as the benchmark fillet.
Secondly, we need retailers to clearly identify fish that
has been frozen at sea and to help make this a sought after characteristic.Consumers have a good image of frozen
vegetables such as peas, and we should emulate what advertising companies
are doing to promote these.
Thirdly, we want more fish-and-chip shops to advertise the
fact that their fish is frozen at sea and to be proud of it — far too many
hide this fact from their customers.
Fourthly, we need all sectors, including NGOs and media, to
accept that the cod stocks we fish are sustainable.For too long our strategy has been defensive,
and we need to be pro-active.I am
currently working on a strategy to tackle all these issues, and hope to see big
differences in attitude in the near future.
19 April, 2011