Updated: Aug 6
Scotland produces sustainable seafood that is the envy of the world over, and it’s never been easier to support this industry in a sustainable way, finds Rosalind Erskine
It has been a tough 18 months for the fishing industry in Scotland. The paper trail of Brexit plus the ongoing pandemic has seen this sector turned upside down. But, with most of us striving to shop more locally, there’s a chance to boost sales and discover new dishes.
Like most things, fishing has a seasonality and what’s available to us from local waters changes over the course of a year. Different waters too will affect what fish and seafood is available, so it’s worth bearing these things in mind when shopping for Scottish fish and seafood.
While supermarkets are the obvious go-to for fish, to guarantee seasonal produce as well as being able to ask for advice, visit your local fishmonger. Eddie’s Fish Market in Edinburgh is ideal for those curious or looking for something different – and it has recently been taken over by award-winning chef Campbell Mickel. Campbell is always on the lookout for something new, and recently bought a whopping 77kg halibut. As well as this, he stocks sushi grade Hamachi tuna to sell as sashimi.
Speaking of the last year and our sustainable seafood, Campbell said: “We are blessed to have some of the most fertile fishing grounds on the planet. Our job is to help educate and encourage customers to try something that is in abundance, something like hake, herring or plaice. Offering great value while helping spread the weight of consumerism allowing stocks to replenish. Our farmed oysters and mussels are entirely sustainable, consistent of quality and readily available. Farmed salmon took a kicking from Seaspiracy, however that only told one side. The farmed salmon industry is of immense importance to Scotland. We need our farming ability for sure, we need to hold the farms to the highest standards but most definitely we need fish farms and we need them for many species. This must be embraced. Farms are going to play a huge part in this industry in the years to come.”
Businesses such as Amity Fish Co offer sustainable, seasonal fish deliveries to homes across the country, something which has been a lifeline to many during the lockdowns. Jenna Urquhart from Amity has seen a change in customer behaviour, especially with regards to sustainability, saying: “We are certainly seeing a shift in buying habits from our clients and customers, who are becoming far more savvy about where their seafood comes from, which is great. We pride ourselves on ensuring our seafood is responsibly sourced and fully traceable – as well as being the best quality available that we can source for our customers. We are also making great progress in reducing our packaging, ensuring the remaining packaging is recyclable where possible and delivering seafood from shore to door with the lowest carbon footprint we can. Every little helps. One positive of the restrictions put on us by the pandemic has been that it has given consumers the opportunity to explore the amazing seafood options widely available on their doorstep.”
When it comes to shopping for sustainable fish and seafood, Andy Gray, Trade Marketing Manager at Seafish / Love Seafood, has these tips: “At Love Seafood we know people are keen to buy sustainably, but sometimes it’s tricky to know what’s what when it comes to purchasing fish and shellfish. So, here are some tips for bearing in mind when next out shopping for seafood.
“Ask for information – when shopping at your local fishmonger, don’t be afraid to ask where the fish and shellfish they are selling came from. They will be able to tell you about the origins and the catching methods of the products they have for sale. This is one of the best reasons to shop local.
“In Scotland and the UK, we have a tendency to buy five main species – salmon, tuna, cod, haddock and prawns – and yet on any one day it is estimated that there is in excess of 100 different species of fish and shellfish available.
“While cod and haddock are often regarded as the nation’s favourite whitefish, hake is a fish that many realise they really like when having the opportunity to taste it. Blind taste sampling tests with whitefish such as cod, haddock, hake, coley and pollock, regularly throw up hake as being the tastiest of the lot.
“A great value for money fish, often overlooked by shoppers, is the humble mackerel. In its fresh form – often regarded by seafood aficionados as one of the tastiest fish, the mackerel lends itself to simple preparation, perhaps pan fried or grilled and enjoyed along with some lightly boiled new potatoes and an accompanying leafy salad – perfect summer dining and a great addition to any menu.”
Although shopping for fish and seafood to cook at home is one way of supporting the industry, remember a trip to the local chippy is also key. As is treating yourself to a dinner out, where seafood and fish from Scotland graces most restaurant menus. Even when restaurants were closed during the pandemic, many chefs still kept supply chains open by offering cook at home kits for customers. One of these, which saw great success, was chef Dean Banks’ Haar at Home boxes, with some options including lobster, crab and langoustines. David Lowrie Fish Merchants in Anstruther also made a real success of cook at home fish box options that offered the best Scottish seafood with a strong focus on seasonality.
“Restaurant chefs have a crucial role to play in showcasing the benefits of Scottish seafood,” says Clare MacDougall, Head of Trade Marketing for the Middle East, North America and the UK for Seafood Scotland. “Their imagination and flair in creating new dishes encourages diners to try more unusual species that they might hesitate to buy to cook at home. So familiarity comes from eating out, and then confidence to cook at home often follows.”
Much like Scotland’s other excellent produce, regions are known for certain fish and seafood. Loch Fyne is mainly known for its mackerel fishing and the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar serves up, mussels, shellfish and Scottish smoked salmon. In Peterhead, you’ll find mackerel, cod, plaice, turbot and sea bass. Sea trout and salmon fishing is popular in Speyside and in Oban, there’s mackerel and pollock.
“We are truly blessed here in Scotland with the amount of quality sustainable seafood that we have access to,” says Derek Johnstone, Executive Chef at Rusacks St Andrews restaurants. “There is an abundance of wonderful sea fish, shellfish, and freshwater fish to choose from. For me, the thing that sets Scottish fish apart is that they’ve got the best natural environment in the world, and that we are careful to maintain it and not over fish. We’re focused on supporting people who do it the right way with minimal environmental impact, and we’ve got some great supplier relationships with the likes of The Ethical Shellfish Company in Mull, David Lowrie Fish Merchants in St Monans and St Andrews Seafoods to name a few. These operators are committed to both sustainability and quality.”
With an abundance of fish and world renowned shellfish that’s available to us sustainably in restaurants, local fishmongers and for delivery to our doors, there’s never been a better time to discover Scottish seafood.
A guide to Scottish fish and seafood
Source: Seafood from Scotland
Haddock: This versatile fish is suitable for many cooking methods. Whole haddock are available up to 3.5kg, but most commonly as two whole side fillets up to 400g. Look out for the MSC logo on Scottish North Sea haddock products.
Cod: Caught in the North Sea, a sweet flavoured fish with large succulent white flakes lending itself to a great variety of filleting options and cooking methods. Cod range from 500g to 6kg, the larger 4-6kg size providing several fillet portions from each side of the fish.
Salmon: Farmed in the cool, clear waters of the Highlands and Islands, sustainably farmed Scottish salmon was named ‘best farmed salmon in the world’ in a poll of international seafood buyers. Scottish farmed salmon has held the French Government’s top quality award, Label Rouge, for 20 years. It was the first non-French food to receive this accolade. The Atlantic salmon offer from Scotland includes fresh, frozen and smoked products. Delicately flavoured flakes of Scottish salmon can be used for carpaccio, sushi, sashimi or cooked in a variety of ways.
(image Nick Nairn's Grilled Langoustines)
Langoustines: Highly prized and sought after, they are versatile and cook in minutes. Similar to a king prawn, but actually a closer relation of the lobster, they grow up to a maximum of 250g, have a meaty tail, soft prawn-like texture and a very sweet shellfish flavour.
Mussels: Rope grown on the west coast of Scotland and around the Scottish Isles, mussels are a highly sustainable species and are quick and easy to cook. Scottish mussels have a meaty flesh and sweet medium seafood flavour. Look out for the MSC logo on sustainable Scottish mussels.
King scallop: Caught around Scotland’s coast, using mobile gear or by hand-diving. Scallop meat has a sweet delicate flavour and needs minimal cooking. Scottish King scallops have approximately 15cm wide shells, with 18-35 pieces of meat per kg (out of shell). Queen scallops have approximately 7cm wide shells and 40 to 120 pieces of meat per kg. Look out for the MSC logo on scallops from the Shetland Isles.