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Chris Leftwich - Fishmongers CompanyChris Leftwich, Fishmongers' Company

Chris Leftwich is Chief Inspector to the Fishmongers’ Company, a City Livery Company that has historical links to the fish industry going back over 700 years. Here, Chris explains what he and his organisation have done to promote the cause of sustainable seafood.

Why do you think sustainable fish is important?

"Many years ago in 1883 the famous biologist Thomas Huxley wrote 'Probably all the great sea fisheries are inexhaustible, that is to say that nothing we do seriously affects the number of fish.' He was not to know that modern technology, the common fisheries policy and Illegal, unlicensed, unregulated fishing was to come on in leaps and bounds to such an extent whereby if unabated we could exhaust the inexhaustible."

"Seafood is an important part of our diet. Already we are seeing serious declines in the health of many developed and undeveloped societies brought about by dietary changes due in part to a lack of seafood in the diet. It is essential that we get back to the situation where seafood becomes an integral part of our diet and our overall diet becomes more healthy. We are simply not going to achieve that unless we look after our seas and produce sustainable seafood."

"At its current level the sea cannot produce enough products to satisfy the need. It is therefore essential that we produce more sustainable product by careful management of what we have and also to develop more sustainable aquaculture to ensure that there is enough to go round. We also have a duty to ensure that our children and grandchildren can enjoy the same products as we have enjoyed ourselves."

What inspired you to take action on sustainable fish?

"It was the need to ensure that everyone involved in the industry takes a more responsible attitude towards the subject. Also as an organisation with such a long association with seafood we felt it was necessary for us to make a positive statement of our intent."

What have you done to support sustainable fish?

"In both a personal and organisational capacity I have tried to champion the need for sustainability. We have organised seminars both at the Fishmongers' Company and also at the Billingsgate Seafood Training School to raise awareness of the issue. At the Company we have produced our own booklet on fish sustainability [click to download PDF] for free distribution to the industry and public. We have also made a conscious decision to only serve sustainable seafood at any functions held at Fishmongers’ Hall and this is borne out by a statement on all of our menus. Our chefs can tell guests exactly the source of any product sold. Our seafood suppliers are also aware of our policy and will only provide products that are sustainable."

"As a Company we have also produced our own cookbook “Simply Fish” using simple recipes with seafood products that are sustainable."

What would you say to a concerned citizen interested in supporting sustainable fish?

"There is plenty of information now in the public domain about the subject and there are many organisations and websites that can provide advice on the subject. There are also plenty of organisations providing advice on what not to eat. Much of it can be found via links on this website."

What would you say to someone in a similar organisation, to inspire them to buy or serve sustainable fish?

"If you want to keep selling or serving seafood in the future it is imperative that you look after the present. To blindly take everything that is available without question is a recipe for disaster."

What would you say to a food buyer or organisation that hasn’t yet acted upon the issue of sustainable fish?

"The subject is taking on a higher profile all the time. Whilst this is not necessarily converting itself into a more questioning consumer, it is only a matter of time. Consumers will start to question and if you cannot provide the correct answers the business will suffer. If all buyers take a more responsible attitude it will force the industry to become more responsible."

Visit the Fishmongers' Company website at:

Raymond Blanc OBE, Chef Patron, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

Good ethics should be part of everyday business. Many restaurants and caterers in this are helping to protect our precious marine resources. They should get rightful recognition and inspire others to do the same.

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