Expert tips for protecting the ocean as a food business selling seafood


Look for sustainable seafood

While seafood is enjoyable to eat, there are problems with over-fishing and so one of the biggest actions you can take as a food business is to source sustainable seafood that is responsible. In the UK, when you are buying unprocessed, uncooked, packaged fish, information has to be given about where it has come from and how it was caught, so always be sure to check the label.

The UK’s Sustainable Seafood Coalition includes rules around labelling, so you can rest assured that if you see the word ‘responsible’ on the packaging, this means the product is either farmed or from a wild source that has been risk-assessed. If the fish says it is ‘sustainable’, then it is from a fishery accredited by an independent certification scheme. Looking for these certifications can make it easier to find sustainable options, and you can also talk to your suppliers and wholesalers about where they source their fish from.

Buy local seafood

Another way that you can make sure your seafood is sustainable is to prioritise local suppliers and fisheries. This can also bring the benefit of being an additional selling point, as many customers will want to experience locally sourced produce when they come to your establishment or order food to take away. So, focus on what local seafood there is in your area; some places are well-known for their oysters, or white fish, and you can design a menu that really showcases your locality’s produce to be both sustainable and extremely enjoyable.

Local seafood also comes with the benefit of having a shorter supply chain, which can be a bonus when coordinating lots of orders. It also allows you to receive fresher seafood, which can really be a gamechanger in terms of taste. And environmentally speaking, local seafood doesn’t have to be shipped or flown to the UK, drastically reducing the food miles that add to your company’s carbon footprint.

Source diverse fish

It might surprise you to know that according to the Marine Conservation Society, 80% of the fish consumed in the UK is one of five types of fish: cod, salmon, haddock, tuna and prawns. This reliance on a few fish species is less sustainable than diversifying, so experiment with using different types of fish throughout your menu — particularly those that can be sustainably farmed.

For example, salmon can be swapped out for farmed trout for a more sustainable option, and farmed muscles, oysters and other shellfish are fantastic alternatives to wild prawns. Lastly, hake is a great substitute for cod, and is a flavourful fish that is simply less well-known than its more popular counterpart. It’s well worth looking for different types of fish to include in your dishes, and you might also find that this livens up your menu too.

Reduce single-use plastic

The Deloitte survey found that 64% of respondents had reduced their use of single-use plastic in the last 12 months. And with good reason: much single-use plastic ends up in the oceans, and can entangle and suffocate many marine species. Other wildlife such as seabirds, whales and turtles can mistake plastic packaging for prey, which is also damaging. So, it’s well worth reducing single-use plastic packing in your products, both to make your business greener and to attract customers. Not to mention, you’ll need to start phasing out single-use plastics as they are being banned soon, as explained by the Marine Conservation Society.

There are various ways of doing this, but you can start by prototyping sustainable packaging using biodegradable materials such as cardboard. You might also consider implementing reusable packaging options that customers can bring back and refill at your business. Not only is this much greener than any other sort of packaging, but it also encourages repeat custom too. If this works for your business, you might even consider offering no-waste products, and allowing customers to bring their own receptacles to collect whatever they are buying, whether that is spices, grains, or herbs.

Guy Cooper, Managing Director, Mitchell & Cooper comments:

“Buying sustainable fish and finding local suppliers can really make your food business more sustainable, and furthermore it will also create a new draw for customers. Make sure that if you are changing the seafood in your menu, you have acquired any new utensils and cooking equipment you might need to make it taste its best and shine in your dishes.

“In the long-term, building relationships with local, more sustainable seafood suppliers will reduce your carbon footprint and also create an incredible fresh menu for your establishment. Look at what is seasonal in your local area as well, and incorporate these types of seafood into your menu as this will immediately mean that you are using what is abundant on your coast rather than relying on over-fished stocks elsewhere.”