Hastings fishermen are celebrating after being the first in Britain to be certified sustainable for catching plaice.
The fleet has received the seal of approval from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), meaning plaice can carry the organisation’s label, assuring shoppers and diners the fish has been responsibly caught by environmentally friendly methods.
Operating from 27 boats on the beach, from where fishing boats have operated for more than 1,000 years, Hastings is one of the oldest beach-launched fishing fleets in the UK.
Hastings MSC Dover sole and herring is already available in a wide range of restaurants across the country, as well as some restaurants and fishmongers in town.
Though the plaice fishery is small-scale, with 104 tonnes landed in 2014, it generates relatively high local employment.
Around 100 people are employed directly on the boats or as shore hands and another 250 in the fish market and other associated service activities.
Paul Joy, chairman of Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society, said: “We are delighted we’re now able to supply MSC certified sustainable plaice alongside our sustainable Hastings herring and Dover sole. We think Hastings fish is the best there is so it’s great that as well as providing seafood lovers across Britain with quality, tasty fish, they can also be assured that it’s caught in a way that protects the oceans.”
Claire Pescod, fisheries outreach manager for the MSC in the UK and Ireland, said: “MSC certified fisheries come in all shapes and sizes and Hastings is a great example of how a small scale, traditional fleet can offer a product that meets the very modern consumer demand of sustainable seafood. They should be very proud to have added Hastings plaice to the list of sustainable fish caught and supplied in Hastings and the UK.”
Funding for the plaice assessment which used the MSC’s expedited assessment process, which reduces the cost of certification for fishermen catching more than one species when one is already certified, was provided by Hastings Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG).
Councillor Dawn Poole, vice-chairman of Hastings FLAG, said: “It’s great to see Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society now has MSC certification for its plaice, in addition to its Dover sole and herring. Hastings is rightly proud of our fishing heritage and thanks to funding provided by FLAG people can buy Hastings plaice confident that the fishing process is well-managed.”
The MSC ecolabel on a seafood product means it comes from a wild-catch fishery, which has been independently certified to the MSC’s standard for environmentally sustainable fishing.
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