Introducing Great Solent Seafood

Introducing Great Solent Seafood

Launch of Great Solent Seafood at the Local Produce Show 2020 © The Electric Eye Photography

Food sustainability is a growing concern, so we're delighted to be launching our new Great Solent Seafood scheme in partnership with Hampshire Fare.

Fish and shellfish can be great for broadening your culinary horizons and connecting with our seas, but like most produce there are more and less responsible ways to enjoy them. Many factors determine how our fisheries affect wildlife - certain kinds of fishing gear, for example can damage important habitats and harm species other than those being fished for.

Making the right choices around seafood can greatly reduce the environmental impact involved, but unfortunately demand for local species is low in the UK and around 80% of what we eat is brought in from elsewhere. The foreign markets we import from, meanwhile, may place less emphasis on sustainability. All of this gives suppliers in our region fewer opportunities to support low-impact fishing.

To help tackle this we're partnering with Hampshire Fare on a new scheme: Great Solent Seafood. The scheme forms part of our project Secrets of the Solent, which is raising awareness about marine issues with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This aspect of the project will see us champion local seafood from wave to plate, working with suppliers to reduce the environmental impact.

We got off to a flying start at the recent Local Produce Show in Southampton, where we joined our partner Hampshire Fare to officially launch our collaboration. We had some fantastic conversations with local suppliers, and Tim Ferrero (Project Manager for Secrets of the Solent) spoke about sustainability for our seas as part of an enlightening panel discussion.

Shore crab being measured © Toby Roxburgh/2020VISION

Shore crab being measured © Toby Roxburgh/2020VISION

Tim Ferrero, Secrets of the Solent Project Manager, said: “Sustainability in seafood is a complex subject. Stocks of target species can be put under immense pressure if they aren't understood and managed properly and different fishing methods can have a range of impacts on the marine environment. Demand for local species is low here and this means that suppliers in our region have fewer opportunities to support low‐impact fishing.

These problems need to be addressed and we are confident that we can gain the support of retailers, hospitality and consumers to choose sustainable seafood and discover more about what is caught locally. We want to work with all those who are part of the local seafood chain, whether involved in catching, selling or serving local seafood. We plan to help businesses set attainable goals, support them in achieving these goals, and promote their efforts as a participating supplier.”

Tracy Nash, Commercial Manager for Hampshire Fare, said: “We are very excited to be involved with such an important campaign which we believe will make a substantial difference about how chefs and consumers choose their seafood, and could reshape their understanding of this market.

“As the county’s food and drink group we have for a long time supported a more environmentally friendly approach to sourcing local produce. However, many of us are still uncertain what sustainability looks like when it comes to seafood. We often don’t know the types of seafood caught locally, which are sustainable, and the best time during the year to eat them.

“This campaign aims to be a celebration of our local seafood. It will help people reconnect with our coast and local waters. It will also enable people to make more informed choices, broaden their culinary preferences, and help them discover this healthy, delicious and versatile local produce and enjoy it in a more sustainable way.

“Consumers can get involved by checking which species are being recommended as more sustainable options. We will also be collaborating with chefs across the area, coming up with delicious Solent seafood dishes, and putting them on the menu, on demos and online as inspiring recipes for all of us to try.”