New standard champions fishmongering, set to bridge consumer knowledge gaps

A new, first-of-its-kind accreditation for highly-skilled fishmongers in the United Kingdom will encourage a greater level of expertise within the trade and inspire increased consumer confidence in seafood consumption, according to Princess Anne, the princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Developed by the ancient guild of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers in partnership with the National Federation of Fishmongers, Seafish, and Seafood School at Billingsgate, the Master Fishmonger Standard (MFS) recognizes achievement for fishmongers at three levels of progression – Recognised, Advanced, and Master. In addition, those who have given a lifetime of contribution to the art of fishmongering may be bestowed as Companion Fishmongers.

Over time, it is anticipated that the standard will be perceived as the top accolade to attain within the sector and that certified fishmongers would be able to use it to showcase their craftsmanship and commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

Speaking at the launch of the standard and the presentation of the inaugural Master Fishmonger awards at London’s Fishmongers’ Hall, Princess Anne, who is also prime warden of The Fishmongers' Company, encouraged all fishmongers to be the guardians of excellence, not just with the preparation and selling of fish, but also as champions for healthy eating. She further highlighted that fish is a valuable commodit,y but that consumption must not exceed the sustainability of stocks, and suggested that one of the best ways to recognize this challenge would be for fishmongers to tell the story to customers over the counter.

With the way that people buy fish changing dramatically over the course of recent decades and contributing to a rising lack of knowledge among consumers about the products that they are buying, fishmongers have almost had to reinvent themselves with regards to what they now buy and do, said The Princess Royal.

That has been an important part of the theory behind this scheme. At the same time, it is aimed at maintaining the link between fishmongers and The Fishmongers' Company, she said.

“I hope that the birth of this Master Fishmonger Standard is a good way of doing that for everybody," she said. “Fishmongers face customers who I hope increasingly value that personal relationship and the ability to discover a great deal more about what they are buying – what has been caught, where it has been caught, how it should be cooked. I hope that they are also beginning to expect and indeed would like to know that their fish and shellfish come from traceable, well managed and sustainable fisheries."

Being able to understand and sell their product has always been part of fishmongers' job description, but the new award recognizes those who have a deep knowledge and skillset in the trade. 

“Telling the story becomes an integral part of [fishmongers’] daily patter. I suspect that has always been true to some extent, but now it is recognized at the more advanced levels through the MFS award," said The Princess Royal. “This cooperation is a joint enterprise. I hope the initiative will make a lasting contribution to this – the founding trade of fishmongers – but also that the relationship is maintained between The Fishmongers’ Company and those at the sharp end, selling fish to customers. It is your business but it is also your understanding and your commitment to the trade which makes a real difference to those who come to you.”

Alison Freeman, program manager for fish trade and communities at The Fishmongers' Company, explained that the MFS Master Fishmonger accolade is reserved for those with at least 10 years’ experience as a fishmonger with practical skills that “know no boundaries.” They should have their own business or work in senior management and be an advocate for the industry.

“From sea to plate, Master Fishmongers should have dedication to their work within the seafood industry,” Freeman said.

Meanwhile, the MFS Recognised Fishmonger accolade is reserved for skilled and driven individuals with at least two years’ experience as a fishmonger. 

The MFS Advanced Fishmonger award is reserved for managerial types with at least five years’ experience as a fishmonger. They should understand seafood supply chains, quality assessment, food safety and HACCP, handling and processing, as well as business and finance. Advanced fishmongers should also inspire the fishmongers of tomorrow with their leadership, said Freeman.

With the aim is to make the MFS as accessible as possible, The Fishmongers’ Company will ensure training, support and assessments will be conducted through approved regional delivery centers and assessors. Free, downloadable training resources are also available on the MFS website.

Lord Phillimore, fish and fisheries committee chairman at The Fishmongers’ Company, said that he hoped the standard would become a key component of the seafood industry.

Andrew Kenny, president of the National Federation of Fishmongers, said he believes the MFS is “the most exciting thing to have happened to the retail seafood sector in a long time,” as it promotes higher levels of knowledge, craft skills and sets a standard to be aspired too.

“For many years, fish markets and fishmongers may have been the last port of call for employment. That is not the case today,” he said. “Seafood is a highly valued protein which needs skilled handling and knowledge to match. The different tiers of the Master Fishmonger Standard recognize the journey of the modern fishmonger, regardless of whether the person comes from an independent fishmonger, supermarket or foodservice – the standard is the same for all.”

Kenny observed the first MFS course, which was held at Billingsgate Fish Market in May.

“Despite coming from different parts of the retail seafood sector, they all shared the same passion – to be a fishmonger," he said. "It is vital that the industry grasps and nurtures this passion. After all, fishmongers are the drivers of seafood sales. If we can educate consumers and provide consistent quality seafood then we can help create a healthier, prosperous and sustainable fishing industry for the future.” 


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