John & Pete's 'Eco Blog'

The Harbour Lights Dynamic Duo discuss a variety of issues relating to doing business in a greener way

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Award Winning Fish and Chip Shop Removes Cod Roe, a Favourite Item, From its menu

The Harbour Lights is a family run Fish and Chip take away and restaurant on Customs House Quay in Falmouth Cornwall. Owners Pete and Sue Fraser have just celebrated ten years in the business. Pete flew in the Royal Navy for nineteen years prior to receiving a calling to the frying world. In February of this year, they opened a second shop in the inland town of Truro. Pete and Sue have four children and sustainability of their operations and the Fish and Chip industry, in general, has always been very important to them.

Since February 2006, the Harbour Lights has made a commitment to its customers that it will only serve fish from sustainable sources. Just prior to that Pete got introduced to COAST, an environmental support network in Cornwall, who encouraged him to conduct a green audit of his business. The sustainable fish commitment, the eradication of harmful packaging and many other enhancements followed from the audit.

The Harbour Lights has never been afraid to step away from the crowd. In 2006, it was one of the first restaurants in the country to respond to Skate being placed on the endangered list of fish and removed it from its menu. Regular customers were initially upset, but once they had the reasoning for the decision explained to them, the majority understood and were happy to migrate to an alternative species. In January 2009 at the national Fish and Chip Shop of the Year awards, the Harbour Lights became the first recipient of the Npower E3, Energy Efficiency and the Environment, award. Leading on from that Peter was invited to host a green forum like page in a popular national trade magazine.

This year the Harbour Lights has a new goal in its sights the Good Catch Award for UK Fish and Chip shops, sponsored by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and SeaWeb’s Seafood Choices Alliance. They have progressed to the second round of judging. The three environmental champions have demanded entrants to really investigate fully their fish supplies. Where and how was the fish caught? How safe and sustainable are the stocks of these fish? How do you communicate regarding sustainable matters with your customers?  In this process, Pete came to the conclusion that Cod Roe really should not be on the menu of any fish restaurants. He spoke to his roe supplier who said, it was fine because the roe was only a by-product of fish already being caught.

The fishing industry said that it came from fisheries that were properly managed and that an allowance in setting fish catching quotas was made for the catching of spawning fish. The next telephone call was to the MCS who had a totally different take on the situation. Fish stocks globally are under threat, why go out to specifically target spawning fish. The fish eggs are the ocean’s future, let them hatch. Spawning fish tend to congregate very close, so surely the fisherman has an unfair advantage if he goes hunting for roe bearing fish.

It didn’t take more than a few seconds for me to realise that the selling of Cod Roe was a mistake. Again we may have to a do a bit of explaining to our customers, that have a liking for roe, but ethically it is not a seafood product that I can continue to sell” said Pete. Cod Roe was removed from the Harbour Lights’s menu on 6 Oct 09. Sam the Sustainable Cod, Harbour Lights’ mascot was very happy and gave the decision his “fins up”.