Where is your fish really from


I was encouraged to write this missive based on many queries I have received over the last month. And these were from people who are buying products for major brands and as such, should know their products, buyers. But, from the outset, in their defense, most ‘buyers’ tend to move from one grocery category to the next to prevent favoritism to certain suppliers and corruption. For example, a buyer of veggie may find himself transferred and purchasing seafood. All well intended, but it means that they generally have no in depth knowledge of products they are sourcing. This in turn leads to a default for them to buy on price, rather than quality or any other parameter. ’Cheap’ wins.

But I digress. Back to the topic at hand.

I have warbled on in the past about the fact that English names on fish packs can mean nothing and you need to check the Latin ‘species’ name to know exactly what you are buying. We have discussed Chilean seabass and Black cod as expensive examples, the Chilean seabass neither been a seabass or from Chile, the fish actually being Toothfish and fished in the deep waters of the Antarctic. Black cod likewise is not a cod, it is a Sable fish. Other examples I have written about are Dover sole, from Canada and Alaskan pollock, which can be from Alaskan, but which can also come from Russia.

Product names are an introduction to a fish, but do not really identify where a fish comes from. One really needs ask for the Health certificate and the Certificate of origin. Accredited suppliers should be able to provide these, and they should be part of the ‘chain of custody’ of that product. Again, we have discussed the ‘chain of custody’, an essential to show the sustainability of a product but in the process, proves the exact source of the product. So, in this context, let’s discuss Greenland Halibut a very popular fish in Hong Kong and Asia.

Greenland Halibut, Latin name ((Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) is fished in the Northern Atlantic, Northern Pacific and Arctic Oceans. Because of the coastal countries around these oceans, the fish can also be named after them, hence the name Greenland Halibut. This fish is also called Black halibut, Blue halibut, Lesser halibut and on the east coast of the USA, Newfoundland turbot. So more confusion with the ‘turbot name’, but not in the UK and Europe where turbot is acknowledges as such that, turbot, a completely different species..

So we have established the name of the fish, but when one obtains the documentation behind the fish, one can see that the fish could have a Certificate of Origin from many European countries, but a generic Heath Certificate from the European Union, the possible exception being Norway, which insists and promotes its own authority and sovereignty. Bottom line, Greenland Halibut, caught by a Spanish boat, landed in Holland, due to cheap landing/ loading fees issued with a Dutch Certificate of Origin, and a European community Health Certificate. Very confusing.

We then have to go back to the start of his dialogue. When I am asked to supply Norwegian Greenland Halibut, it is nigh on impossible. There is really no such thing. The best I can do is supply Greenland Halibut, with a Norwegian Certificate of Origin, but this could be from a ship of many different sovereignties, Russian, Spanish etc etc. Wherever it is cught and landed, it is the same fish, the same species. The name is fundamentally a guide to the fish not its catching area. Catching areas, areas of ocean are designated by the term FAO, being the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security. But we can discuss this at a later time.

So please, the same old message. Please check and be aware if what you buy. Become an educated buyer






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