Q&A: Wales contributes to sustainability debate

By

Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
March 24, 2011

There is the notion that local food systems and shorter supply chains can, and will, play an integral role in solutions to the sustainability dilemmas currently pervading the global food industry. In terms of seafood, new pilot initiatives in the United Kingdom such as the Pisces-RFR project, or the “poissons sauvages du bassin de la Loire” in France, aim to encourage stakeholders in the seafood supply chain to think locally and seasonally.

In one corner of coastal Wales, the annual Pembrokeshire “Fish Week” contributes to the sustainability debate, encouraging chefs and consumers to engage with local seafood. Indeed, the region is using seafood to lure increasing numbers of visitors to the area. SeafoodSource spoke with Kate Morgan, food officer at Pembrokeshire Country Council, to find out more.

Partos: When and why did Pembrokeshire launch Fish Week? 

Morgan: We launched 12 years ago as a complement to a local Sea Trout Festival. The event snowballed and, in the last four to five years, Fish Week has gained in momentum. Last year we had about 30,000 visitors. The key aim of the festival is to attract new and additional visitors to the area, out of season, effectively to boost the local economy. The restaurants in the area use Fish Week as a springboard to launch their summer fish menus.

What types of seafood are found in the area? 

Pembrokeshire is a great coastal area (the coastline is 259-kilometers long) and is particularly well known for its crab and lobster. There is also mackerel, sea bass and pollock, caught by local fishermen. Like all fisheries in the UK, the fishing fleet in this area has depleted. There’s been a great deal of time and effort in improving the situation and encouraging sustainability. The in-shore fishing fleet, for example, promotes line- and rod-caught sea-= bass. There are only two Welsh trawlers left.

How is the event structured? 

The 2011 festival has more than 250 events and will be held between 25 June and 3 July. The wide range of events includes learning to fish for mackerel, netting and rock shore exploration and foraging for seafood. A new event this year is “Cook your Catch,” a seafood cookery master class with five top British chefs. Chefs Mark Hix, Valentine Warner, Mitch Tonks, Bryn Williams and Anthony Evans will all go fishing off the South Pembrokeshire coast and they must cook their own rod-caught seafood in their demonstration.

What aspects of seafood particularly attract the visitors? 

In 2010 we launched sushi workshops. They were a complete sell out. Foraging is also very popular — participants hunt around in rock pools, and they might find seaweed, winkles, razor clams [and] crabs. They then go back to a kitchen to make a dish with their foraging finds. There are also workshops for consumers to learn how to fillet fish.
Does Fish Week make a difference to the bottom line? 

Yes, definitely, in particular on the hospitality side, which sees an increase in sales and customers. Interestingly, although we do a lot of demonstrations, retailers don’t tend to see such a rise in sales as the hospitality industry.

People are still reticent about cooking seafood? 

Yes, there may be a small barrier.

How do you feel seafood slots into sustainability? 

Buying local fish is not easy, but when you’re serving fish you have to be flexible. Fishermen don’t always catch what is on your menu. The sourcing of fresh fish may be problematic for the supply chain. However, I think it can improve. For example, there’s a hub in nearby Bury port where fishermen have clustered together to provide a stronger push to the wholesaler. The most “on the ball” chefs will contact the wholesaler to find out what’s fresh, and from there they’ll make their menu decisions. Flexibility means chefs working with the fishermen, and this is key to going forward.

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