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Charles Redfern, Fish4Ever

Charles Redfern - Fish4Ever

Charles Redfern is founder of Fish4Ever, the canned fish brand of the company OrganiCo. Charles's company sells organic and sustainable food, focusing in particular on supporting smaller more local family businesses and co-operatives that are typical or embedded in a specific farming area or agriculture - and for the most part are being adversely affected by the global market and the dramatic impact big companies are having in re-shaping the way food is produce and consumed. Here, Charles explains why he thinks a sustainable approach to seafood is so important.

Why do you think sustainable fish is important?

"It’s not just the seas or fish that we’re worried about, it’s the whole of the environment. We all need to start acting and thinking sustainably. As consumers, we’re often not called upon to do that, it’s not a requirement, nor is it obvious what that would mean. We think that as a company or a brand we need to represent - insofar as possible - the best choice for a consumer."

"Sustainability for us is very much about the human dimension. Sustainability must incorporate issues of fairness and equity - for the workers, the community, the producers, etc.  In practical terms with commercial pressures that’s an extremely difficult ask – but we do think that this is the only way forward. Be it in 20... 30... 50 years, the only legitimate business will be the business that respects citizenship values - and not just consumer values. In Fish4ever we unite “land, sea and people sustainability” and part of our work is to be out there with the best made and best tasting products that also represent a better way of doing things."

What have you done to support sustainable fish?

"We worked especially hard on those things we can influence or make a positive decision on. In simple terms, this means where and how our product is fished."

"Before that it means learning the issues fish by fish, area by area. What are the problems? What are the alternatives? What can we do better? We are completely open on this – each product can be tracked on the website and in the vast majority of cases there is a “where” and “how” summary on the box. Many companies claim it is too hard to know where your ingredients come from, that now business is too internationalised, but we simply don’t understand that statement! It’s a completely alien way of working for us. We are very precise about our sourcing – specific farms and growers, specific boats, known factories, traceability systems, it’s really in our DNA."

"Our fish is either all certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and/or we know which boats are catching the fish we pack - and quite precise information on where exactly the fish is caught. We’re very strict on equipment so we make sure that we’re not using methods that have high bycatch, high discard or damage the sea bottom. We avoid areas where juveniles spawn or are located. We try to avoid the risk of illegally caught fish (which has been a huge problem) by choice of areas where we fish and lists of boats and even looking up management issues."

"In North-South trade we are against long-distance foreign water fleets so we flatly refuse to work that way. We look instead for local boats and whenever possible we also look for local packing – we guess it has a lower footprint but more important we know it’s good for the community to support local production. Finally, all our land ingredients are organic, as organic is the globally recognised (and legally backed) standard for environmentally and socially intelligent land exploitation."

"Beyond what we can do ourselves, we realise it’s important to join up with others, so we’ve worked with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) because it was a huge body pushing for improvements in fishing. We also engage almost constantly with many other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and fishery experts. We fully support the idea of marine parks, including 'no fish zones', and support the precautionary principle of fish resource management and working on fishing as part of an eco-system. We support these things, listen to the experts, learn... but it’s important not too muddle our roles, we’re not the scientific experts, we’re not a management system or an enforcer, we’re at the commercial end of things. The fishermen can’t be blamed for doing things a bad way because a whole system is in question. So the sustainable fishermen need sustainable companies and they both need consumers or what we like to call citizen-consumers."

What inspired you to take action on sustainable fish?

"Our company is from the organic sector. It’s in our DNA to work sustainably. What we’ve worked hard on over the years is learning it, improving it and becoming more of an advocacy organisation."

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

"Find out who stocks sustainable fish and buy it from there. Try something different or new that is sustainable. Cut back on waste or impulse eating – and use the money saved to buy better.  Support the charities and organisations that are pressuring for change.  Don’t be afraid to ask for sustainable options. And buy Fish4Ever sustainable canned fish when you want canned!"

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

"Fish4Ever is a good brand name because it says we need fish for ever, now and in the future, it support conservation and sustainability but is also saying let’s eat fish, let’s continue fishing but let’s do it the right way.  And that should be the “citizen” position of any business – the days of saying “it’s too complicated” or “it’s not my business” are numbered. You can make better decisions and adopt standards – there’s plenty of help out there and also there are many good and/or better buying options in fish. It can also be a journey. If you sell fish, offering the good choice but then (and in fact more important) push that choice, make the issues clear, support best practice."

What would you say to a food buyer or organisation that isn't yet acting upon the issue of sustainable fish?

"In the future fish production will have to change or die – you will have to change with it, why not be in the forefront and protect your supplies by buying sustainable fish now." 

Find out more about Fish4Ever on the website:

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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