We live in unprecedented times, with uncertainty affecting all of us on different, personal levels. Businesses and industries have been affected to degrees not known since the World Wars. This, of course, includes the Seafood Industry. For me, the Seafood Industry encapsulates everything from the fishermen to fishmongers, from processors to NGOs.
An almost ‘overnight’ roll out of challenges started to appear. Social distancing meaning strict rules for fish buying markets, in a bid to keep everyone safe, but trying to maintain the industry which still kept us all fed during both World Wars. Prices were and are, still affected for the catches landed by fishermen. They need a fairs days wage for a fair days work, they need to maintain crews, as well as their own families and their businesses. To that end, some fishermen finding no other option than to tie in at harbour. UK landed fish is a sought after commodity, thanks to the measures taken to fish and the quality landed, and the export market usually being a lucrative one, is largely quiet.
That then leads to fishmongers and processors feeling the effects. A lot of independent fishmongers are to be found inside market places, some of which are now closed, or have restricted access, which means that footfall is no longer a viable option.
The Seafood Industry has faced its unfair share of adversities, from the ‘Cod Wars’, red tape and legislation and even the weather for the fishermen. Then the changing face of retail and consumer buying. With all of those challenges, the industry faces them head on, and this is no different. Adapting is key.
Coastal fishmongers have made a big impact, supporting their landing markets and adapting their businesses. Fishermen themselves have been able to sell their catch directly from their vessel.
Inland fishmongers have had to adapt their businesses, in some cases, changing their whole business model completely. A lot of independent fishmongers supply restaurants and caterers. Due to the Covid Lockdown, the restaurants have closed and caterers have had to dramatically reduce their buying. So, whats the answer? Delivering to homes instead, whether it be in the locality, the county or even UK wide. Customers who are, quite rightly, obeying the government rules of Lockdown and staying at home, are still supporting their fishmonger and the industry, whilst still getting nutritious food.
Are There Any Positives To Be Gained?
We need to find a silver lining to all of this, to be able to stay positive. More customers are discovering their local independent fishmonger. Ones who were initially buying for their elderly relatives and neighbours, are returning the following week buying for themselves. Customers who, in the beginning days of Lockdown, admitted that they just wanted to avoid the supermarket queues, but in the proceeding weeks, keep returning.
I have served a lady who was telling me that she always used her supermarket fishmonger, but thought she would give the shop a try instead. “Tell me what you think of your fish next time.” I encouraged. The following week, return she did, vowing not to go back to the supermarket as she had never tasted such quality before. Young people have started to use the independent shops more too. Some are saying they were unsure of how to cook fresh fish, but whilst on Lockdown, they have the opportunity to cook and experiment.
It is not just an isolated case, but all over the country, from the furthest NE Scotland, to furthest SW Cornwall, from Wales to Ireland and not forgetting Grimsby and Brixham, fishmongers are doing their utmost to keep everyone fed. Fishermen are toiling and adapting to ensure that we have that supply.
What Can We Do To Support All We Can?
At the time of me writing this, the country is still in Lockdown, if you are in isolation, support your fishmonger by finding out if they are carrying out deliveries. If you don’t have a local fishmonger, get online and find fish companies to order what you need delivered to your door.
If you are still able to go out, respect social distancing rules, and if you find yourself having to queue, then you know you are at a quality fishmongers! As frustrating as it can be to queue, do so safe in the knowledge that your fishmonger is working hard, and still trying to keep themselves safe too.
Eat more fish! Don’t forget your recommended 2 portions of fish a week, with all the health benefits eating fresh seafood brings. Broaden your horizons and try different species, set yourself a challenge to swap the “Usual 5” Salmon, Cod, Haddock, Tuna and Prawns, for something new, ask for your fishmongers advice, and use locally sourced fish where possible. There is a wealth of Seafood to explore.
The Fishermen’s Mission
The Fishermen’s Mission is 139 years old, but their aim has never changed. They support the men, women and families involved in the fishing industry, offering practical help, support and counselling when needed. For the Fishermen’s Mission to be able carry on supporting the community, we need to support them. Please check out the website and also on all forms of social media.
No one can possibly predict events after this virus, but if we all make use of the seafood industry, support our fishermen and their families, eat more fish, especially under utilised species, then it is fair to say that our seafood industry will be able to ride the rough seas to calmer waters
A massive shout out to every single fisherman, fisherwoman, fishmonger and processor I know. There are far too many to mention, but know that I am very proud of you all in these times and beyond