And the Winner Is…

February 25th 2013

Scottish fish and chip shops walked away from the Seafish Fish and Chip Shop of the Year Awards this year with half of the awards, but what was their secret?

The Bay Fish and Chip Shop in Stonehaven (Independent Takeaway Fish & Chip Shop of the Year, the Good Catch Award) and Frankies Fish & Chips in Shetland (From Field to Fryer Award, Young Fish Fryer of the Year Award, the Amanda Seafoods Challenge Award, and the Staff Training & Development Award at the National Fish & Chip Awards) reckon their winning formula is using fresh Scottish haddock!

“Haddock is our best seller,” confirmed Bay Chip Shop owner Callum Richardson. “We buy fresh from Peterhead and promote the low food miles and MSC sustainable credentials to our customers, who really appreciate the fact that we are supporting the local industry. Callum, a new-age chippy, uses Twitter to good effect to let customers know who has supplied his fish. “I would encourage chippies everywhere to seek fresh Scottish supply and to do their bit to help,” he said.

Young Fish Fryer of the Year Caroline Kernay admitted that Frankies wouldn’t dream of using anything but top quality fresh fish, with its superb flavour. “It’s really important for us to work with the local fishing boats and support the community, and we also promote the individual boats who supply us,” she said.

Both shops serve a range of other species such as hake, pollock and coley, and make an effort to encourage customers to try alternative local species. It is the sweet taste and firm texture of Scottish haddock that commands the greatest loyalty though! Such anecdotal evidence backs up taste panels undertaken by Seafood Scotland last year, when they pitted Scottish haddock against Norwegian and Faroese imports and it came top every time.

Of course, Scottish haddock has impeccable credentials, having gained MSC certification as a sustainable and well managed stock in 2010. However, all Scottish stocks are caught within agreed quotas, and are fished in a responsible manner, including cod, stocks of which have improved significantly as a result of adherence to the EU Cod Recovery Plan. A growing number of vessels have signed up to the Seafish Responsible Fishing Scheme, which covers everything from onboard safety, correct use of approved fishing gear and care of the catch.

The industry has embraced the pioneering Scottish Government-led Conservation Credits Scheme, which includes amongst other measures, closed fishing areas and the total catch programme, in which vessels agree to use onboard CCTV and to land all the fish they catch. It is an important measure that is helping the Scottish fisheries to become discard-free and has been welcomed by skippers such as Brian Buchan of the Lapwing PD972, a haddock fisherman for over 30 years.

Local fishermen keen to get involved in promoting their seafood are coming up with a variety of innovative ideas. John Buchan Jnr, skipper of the whitefish vessel Ocean Venture PD 240, has set up ‘Johns Fish Fight’ on Facebook, which has gained a tremendous following in the past few weeks, while skippers from around the coast are donating seafood to the Seafood in Schools project to encourage children and their parents to eat more seafood. Others are investigating tie-ups with celebrity chefs to get the sustainable and tasty Scottish seafood message out to consumers.

Graham Young, head of Seafood Scotland said: “Consumers are asking more questions than ever about the source of their food and how it has arrived on their plates. Like other segments of the Scottish food industry we also have heard evidence from our fishmongers, processors and restaurants that they have been selling more Scottish fish in recent weeks. Scotland’s seafood sector is particularly predominated by family businesses with high levels of local sourcing. This creates the short supply chains, the provenance and the traceability that consumers are currently looking for.”