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Matthew Couchman,
Southbank Fresh Fish

Matthew Couchman, Southbank Fresh FishMatthew is the depot sales manager of Southbank Fresh Fish: London’s premier fresh seafood wholesaler, which has supplied London restaurants and caterers for over 20 years.

A qualified fisheries scientist, Matthew has a firm belief that education and sound, clear advice are key to changing how we buy and serve seafood. Since joining Southbank Fresh Fish, they have become one of the first to achieve MSC Chain of Custody certification, they are a Sustainable Restaurant Association listed supplier and have RSPCA Freedom Food and Organic certification.

Matthew has been involved in fish and seafood for over 20 years in trout and carp farming, fishery management and consultancy and he was the manager of London’s prestigious fishmongers ‘The Chelsea Fishmonger’. In January 2013 Southbank Fresh Fish launched their most ambitious project yet - the Southbank Sustainability Initiative (SSI). It aims to transform London's menus by providing truly sustainable and traceable seafood, and at the same time assisting London's chefs in understanding the complex subject of seafood sustainability.

Why did you sign the pledge?

"I am in a fabulous and privileged position to help guide restaurant owners and chefs through the murky and hugely complex area of seafood sustainability. Such a unique chance is not available to many in the industry, an opportunity not to be missed. Signing the pledge cements our commitment to seafood."

What you are doing about sustainable fish 

"Most recently, the demand for information about sourcing seafood has escalated with the consumer and the discerning diner, driving the need for clarity and understanding of seafood sustainability. The subject of sustainability, and the fisheries science which underpins it, is hugely complex and I believe that the only way to grasp it is to sit and talk to people who are passionate and have an understanding of the subject. Southbank Sustainability Initiative (SSI) is based on communication, education and advice with the long-term goal of being a fully sustainable menu." 

"This goal is best tackled over a period of time as menu changes are not always that easy to implement immediately. We first need to ascertain the chefs', owners' and restaurant’s sustainability objectives and evaluate the current menu items. From this, if requested, advice is offered on the menu items purchased, and a bespoke product chart produced. From the outcome we can suggest alternative catch areas/methods, replacement products, and/or removal of products to improve the overall sustainability rating. We also give advice on sustainability statements, policies and menu information, with the goal of the restaurant fulfilling the Sustainable Fish City pledge, as well as a positive Sustainable Restaurant Association and Fish2Fork rating. The Southbank Sustainability Initiative is underpinned by the advice of the Marine Conservation Society (MCS)."

Why it is important that we buy sustainable fish?

"All species play important roles in the food chain; they are here for a reason. Fishing under controlled management has been scientifically shown to aid the recruitment process ["recruitment" = the number of fish surviving long enough to enter the fishery], however overfishing has clearly shown the opposite. Our generation has the opportunity to pinpoint the species under threat and react accordingly to allow stabilisation in their stock levels. High-profile stock collapses such as the North West Atlantic Cod have given us all the incentive we need to believe near disaster can be averted with tight management and control. This stock, a stock close to extinction, is now showing signs of recovery." 

"It is hugely important that we understand this area better, including all the factors which contribute to the definition of "sustainable fish" - fishing methods and their effect on a stock and the environment; catch volumes, quotas and total allowable catches; seasonality and the true importance of spawning seasons, so we can all make the right choices of what fish to sell, serve, purchase or eat."

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Fish Fight

I have been travelling around the UK meeting fishermen, marine conservationists, politicians, supermarkets bosses, and of course fish-eating members of the public. It has changed the way I think about fish.

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