The Norwegian Seafood Council has welcomed the UK’s leading fish and chip shops to the western shores of Norway as part of an educational study trip to showcase its ‘whitegold’ cod and haddock - two of the most popular species used by British fish and chip shops.
Representatives from nine of the UK’s best fish and chip shops* - all in the running to be crowned the Fish and Chip Shop of the Year as part of the 30th anniversary National Fish & Chip Awards, organised by Seafish - visited the port city of Ålesund to discover the facts surrounding one of the largest sustainable cod and haddock stocks in the world.
The trip gave finalists the opportunity to learn about the vital supply chain of Frozen At Sea (FAS) whitefish, which Norway has been supplying to the UK for almost 70 years, accounting for over 20% and 30% of the UK’s annual cod and haddock consumption respectively.
Experiencing first-hand how Norway provides the perfect living environment for cod, the finalists stepped aboard the working FAS vessel ‘Geir II’ - one of the newest longline fishing vessels in the world. They journeyed out on the cold, clear Norwegian waters and uncovered the science behind the country’s sustainable fisheries management program while witnessing the entire fishing process; from baiting and ‘shooting’ the lines, to processing and freezing while out at sea.
Returning to land, finalists had a chance to exchange knowledge with top Norwegian chefs; sharing the background and history of the Great British tradition of fish and chips, while learning traditional cured Nordic cod recipes with ‘Lutefisk’ and ‘Bacalao’ at Klippfisk Akademiet (The Klippfisk Academy cookery school).
Hans Frode Kielland Asmyhr, UK Director of the Norwegian Seafood Council, commented: “Fish & Chips continues to be one of the nation’s favourite dishes; it goes as far to say that if Brits moved abroad the dish would be pined-for most, alongside the British countryside, pubs and cups of tea. This addiction has easily helped the UK become one of the world’s biggest markets for both cod and haddock. The UK consumes nearly 238,700 tonnes of cod and over 130,400 tonnes of haddock every year, but with a relatively low domestic catch for these species (4% and 22% respectively), there is a continued reliance on imports to keep these delicious whitefish on the nation’s menu. Over the last 70 years, Norway has played a vital role to help satisfy this demand. Nearly 60,000 tonnes of cod and just over 40,000 tonnes of haddock are exported to the UK every year from one of the most abundant and scientifically managed stocks in the world. We are incredibly proud and grateful for our relationship with the UK fish & chip sector, so it was a great honour to welcome this year’s finalists to Norway to showcase our perfect living environment, management and catch process for the fish that they treat with so much respect in their shops day in and day out.”
Marcus Coleman, Chief Executive at Seafish, added: “The UK currently imports around 90% of cod to meet consumer demand. The fish and chip sector relies on cod and haddock supplies from countries including Norway to meet this demand, serving around 382 million portions of fish and chips per year. The recent certification of North Sea cod by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is welcome news for this sector, enabling greater choice and a range of sourcing options for fish and chip shops and restaurants.
“This trip has given our top ten finalists first hand insight into how the cod many of them serve to their customers is caught and frozen, as well as teaching shop owners about the importance of all sides of the fishing industry working together, both at home and further afield, to ensure that the UK’s demand for whitefish is sustainably met for generations to come. We wouldn’t be able to offer this trip if it wasn’t for the support of the Norwegian Seafood Council, so I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to them.”
While North Sea cod has recently been awarded sustainable status by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), UK demand for cod and haddock continues to outweigh supplies. The trip allowed the finalists to understand the importance of a collective effort, with the fishing industry’s managers and scientists working together, to ensure the UK’s demand for whitefish is met sustainably for generations to come.
Representing MSC on the trip was Rachel Dacre, Marketing Manager at MSC. She said: “It is always fantastic to see first-hand the passion and dedication of fishermen who really care about what they do and sustainability. These Norwegian fishermen were no different. Being taken out on board the MSC certified vessel Geir II in search of cod and haddock was an incredible experience and one that will not be forgotten by anyone on the trip.
“The Norwegian cod and haddock fisheries have had MSC certification since 2010. It was equally excellent to meet some of the award finalists, especially as eight of them also have MSC certification. Being able to link the sustainable journey from ocean to plate with the MSC fishermen and MSC chippies was a really special experience. I wish all the finalists the best of luck in January.”
*Finalists that attended the trip are: Cromars Classic Fish & Chips in St Andrews, Fife (Scotland); Penaluna’s Famous Fish & Chips in Hirwaun, Rhonda Cynon Taff (Wales); The Dolphin Takeaway in Dungannon, County Tyrone (Northern Ireland); Millers Fish & Chips in Haxby, North Yorkshire (North East England); Fylde Fish Bar in Southport, Merseyside (North West England); The Golden Carp Chippy in Redditch, Worcestershire (Midlands); Burton Road Chippy in Lincoln, Lincolnshire (Eastern England); Captain’s Fish and Chips in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire (Central & Southern England) and Harbourside Fish & Chips in Plymouth, Devon (South & West England).