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Ahead of the biennial Slow Fish event in Genoa, Shane Holland, executive chairman of Slow Food UK, talks about the importance of buying sustainable seafood—and how the Market, with its long-standing commitment to Slow Food, and its traders can help you do just that

Thursday 18th May sees the start of Slow Fish, the biennial Slow Food event that takes place in Genoa, Italy. Spread over four days, this forum seeks to highlight not only the great and varied bounties of our seas, but also the issues which affect fishing and the communities that it sustains across the globe. The theme of the eighth Slow Fish is ‘We are the net’, which focuses on how we all can positively play a part, and encourage and support the best sustainable fishing, by choosing our purchases carefully.

We don’t, however, need to be in Genoa to get involved: Borough Market, with its long-standing commitment to Slow Food values, has the largest concentration of Slow Fish on sale within the UK, and provides the opportunity to meet some of the fisherfolk themselves.

The term Slow Fish, like Slow Food, is recognised as the marque of sustainability which also enhances the local community—something recognised by Slow Food Fishmonger of the Year, Paul Day of Sussex Fish, who says: “Small inshore boats like us go in and out in a day, so everything is very fresh. We employ local people and Slow Food highlights how this keeps the money in the local community—that’s crucial.”

Seawater in their veins
There are many places to buy fish and seafood within the Market, but Richard Haward’s Oysters perhaps comes closest to water-to-stall with his famous Colchester native oysters, which last year were given Slow Food Presidia status. The Hawards have seawater in their veins, having been oystermen since the 1700s. “Slow Fish is about raising awareness,” explains Richard, “from issues of water quality to sustainable catches, and why an oyster costs as much as it does.” 

The closeness between fisherman and shopper is very much recognised by regular Borough demonstration kitchen chef Paula McIntyre, who says: “Slow Fish has made me question my purchasing and I go directly to tenable fishermen from sea and lough—and I get to meet them first hand at Borough Market.”

Fishing techniques of course change: Darren Brown of Shellseekers Fish and Game uses the comparatively modern technique of hand diving for scallops off the Jurassic coast, the antithesis of dredging the entire seabed, while Furness Fish and Game sustains the centuries-old tradition of Morecambe Bay Potted shrimps. “Brown shrimps have been caught by local fisherman for hundreds of years,” explains MD Clare Worrall. “While the fishermen ventured into the treacherous bay, their wives would shell and pot them. Keeping this tradition alive is at the heart of Slow Fish.”

Into the future
It is perhaps Market regular and chef, Tom Hunt, who sums up Slow Fish best: “Our oceans are at such a pivotal point in time that Slow Fish is vital for the future of our planet. The awareness and care that Slow Food raises to protect our oceans and the life within them will ensure that they can continue to nourish us long into the future.”

I couldn’t agree more; and on that note, all that is left is for me to think about is what fish to buy for tonight’s supper—we are the net, after all.