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Webchat with Waitrose fish experts, Mon 22 June, 1-2pm

(221 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 18-Jun-09 12:28:13

As some of you may already know, our friends at Waitrose are sponsoring the film The End of the Line, which is all about ocean sustainability and the dangers of over-fishing.

And on Monday (22 June, 1-2pm), Quentin Clark and Neil Nugent from Waitrose will be joining us for a live webchat all about fish.

Neil is an executive chef at Waitrose and will no doubt have lots of lovely fish recipes up his corporate sleeve. Quentin is Waitrose's fish buyer and knows all there is to know about responsible fishing (and fish-eating).

We hope you'll join us for the chat on Monday but, as ever, if you can't (or you can't wait), please post your advance questions here.

FrontRowFig Thu 18-Jun-09 14:53:27

I think the Wairtose fish counter is superb tbh ( even if I only haunt it for reductions)

lulalullabye Fri 19-Jun-09 10:29:37

Well, if they do as much research into fish as they do with coffee, that would explain how fantastic and ethical their fish is !!

LupusinaLlamasuit Fri 19-Jun-09 10:37:51

Can they tell us where Cod is? grin

OhBling Fri 19-Jun-09 11:20:18

I don't have a single qustion. But the idea of Waitrose fish experts being on MN is too fabulous for words. A little offbeat, but brilliant.

(sadly, I'll have to read it afterwards as I have a meeting but whatever).

smellen Fri 19-Jun-09 11:48:18

My question would be:
Why are Waitrose still selling cod. Can there really be such a thing as environmentally responsible cod?
Also, do Waitrose sell tilapia, and what are their thoughts on it (is it a "greener" alternative to other types of fish; how nutritious is it - I read it was low on Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils).
Also, why are they now only selling their salmon steaks in portions rather than by weight. I often buy fresh salmon for the kids, but don't want a huge chunk at times.

Thanks for the new fish-in-the-oven service (on the fish counters), great idea. Has it impacted on sales?

FlappyTheBat Fri 19-Jun-09 12:19:19

Waitrose do sell tilapia but when I asked about it, they weren't very enthusiastic about it.
However, both dd's really seem to like it.

Working on monday so will have to read chat once I've got home, would love some recipes for tilapia as it doesn't have a lot of flavour and all I seem to do are tomato and garlic based sauces for it.

SpawnChorus Fri 19-Jun-09 14:46:34

I just wanted to say that it's great news that you're going to be bringing out sustainably fished tinned tuna soon, rather than the John West stuff (which according to GreenPeace is very poorly fished). Am I right in thinking it will be rod & line caught? Will you be able to ensure that the fishermen are working in fair conditions for fair pay?

<<Gratuitous Smarm Alert>>

I LOVE Waitrose and was so happy when I realised that my weekly shop costs about the same as a Tesco shop, helped by the fact that you offer free delivery or shop pick-up (which is a great service...God the staff are lovely). Well done to everyone at Waitrose!

littleducks Fri 19-Jun-09 15:29:37

I think this is a great idea, although certainly very different and 'out there'

My question:

We eat cod, we really like cod in batter or in a fish pie (and i buy the waitrose frozen cod pieces for fish pie). Apart from cod we only really eat salmon or plaice (which the lovely people on the fish counter skin and bone for me).

So what would be the best fish for me to buy in order to try and wean my dc and dh off cod? The fish must have scales (religous requirement not put in there to confuse you)

and my sucking up point, i would like to add that i really do love waitrose there is one local to us and although i think we arent really the target market i do make the effort to buy certain things from there, one of which is fish, the counter service is excellent and my daughter adores the 'waitrose easy tuna steaks'

Wallace Fri 19-Jun-09 17:17:35

It says Monday the 21st in title and sidebar!

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 19-Jun-09 18:01:29

Will amend right now. thanks for pointing out.

We don't have a Waitrose sad so I know nothing of their fish counter.

whooosh Fri 19-Jun-09 18:24:36

Love the fact that the Waitrose fish buyer is called Quentin <snigger>

My question again is around Cod (the original).

"Are Waitrose investigating methods of "farming" cod as M&S are in Huuuuuuge farms in the middle of an appropriate sea?

oopsacoconut Fri 19-Jun-09 18:25:09

I read this as 'Webchat with Waitrose Fish' hmm gotta concentrate more!

HuffwardlyRudge Fri 19-Jun-09 19:49:18

Oh how interesting. Good call MNHQ.

I have a question from my 3-yr-old daughter who would like to know if she can eat the fish's tongue and eyes when I bake a whole fish.

FiveGoMadInDorset Fri 19-Jun-09 19:49:36

Great idea, will try to be there as will be interesting to compare them to my local lobster fisherman who I buy my fish off.

MollieO Fri 19-Jun-09 23:51:48

Sounds a bit fishy to me wink.

I'd like to know how fresh is their fish? How long from being caught to reaching the fish counter?

How is their fish caught overseas transported to the UK (am thinking about their Alaskan organic salmon).

I'd like to know why I can't buy whitebait on the fish counter (or in packets). I love whitebait, but almost never have it because the supermarkets don't sell it.

and another one...
We love your lightly dusted lemon sole fillets, but can't have them currently because they contain milk which half the family can't have. Why the 'need' to add milk to a product that really doesn't require it?

yappybluedog Sat 20-Jun-09 09:00:43

we don't have a Waitrose near us either (South Devon) WHY NOT?

VeraChuckandDave Sat 20-Jun-09 09:30:18

What has happened to their mussels recently (last year or two). Have they changed their source/supplier? They used to be lovely, now they're quite unpleasant (if not actually 'off'). Really disappointing as there's nowhere else near us (that I can think of) that sells mussels and I love them!

I know its not really the right time of year for mussels, but I'm still interested.

And why don't they stock clams any more? Or is that just my branch. Used to buy those once a week to throw into a paella or have with spaghetti and chilli and garlic (delicious). Is there an ethical issue surrounding clams, or just no demand (other than me)?

There are 5 near me yappybluedog - want one? grin

Doyouthinktheysaurus Sat 20-Jun-09 11:54:28

This is a great idea. I'm forever flummoxed by the fish counter.

Which fish should we be buying from a sustainability point of view? And which fish should we avoid?

Is cod ever a 'green' option or should we all avoid it all together?

MrsSeanBean Sat 20-Jun-09 15:01:15

I won't be around on Monday. However, my question/ comment would be that I find it's often difficult to use the 'smell' test to guage whether fish is really fresh, as it all seems to smell vile to start with.

Is it normal for fish to have a strong smell? It may be that I am just hypersensitive to / dislike fishy smells.

Does Waitrose fish smell 'better'? wink

I do like Waitrose on my little trips into Marlborough, but can't say I've lingered long enough around the fish counters to form any opinion.

merryberry Sat 20-Jun-09 15:27:57

<and sitting on hands hard and not letting what i'm thinking out>


sorry cou;dn't supress it

sophable Sat 20-Jun-09 18:00:15

Question: how can you justify selling any farmed salmon at all given what you know about the huge risks to health because of PCPs and dioxins which are concentrated in their food and antibiotics and sealice treatments all of which pose risks to human health from ingestion?

From a marine conservation point of view, selling farmed salmon is criminal as it takes more than 3lb of wild fish to raise 1 lb of farmed salmon, and said fish are often juveniles of endangered species.

I shop in Waitrose but hope fervently that you will take the lead in raising awareness that far from being a health giving food, farmed salmon is both a health risk and an ecological disaster.

And before you plead that not all farmed salmon is equal, please know that I am fully aware that even so called 'organic' farmed salmon is treated with 'SLICE' a sealice treatment which is carcinogenic. The soil association have let their brand down badly in allowing the term organic to be applied to farmed salmon. The same conservation issues outlined above apply to all farmed salmon.

Further any farmed salmon's flesh would be grey were it not for the addition of canthaxanthin, a substance that was banned as a tanning pill in the UK because it accumulates in the retina.

Why are you stocking this stuff?

MrKrabs Sat 20-Jun-09 18:01:09

I buy tilapia but have tos ay it very fast as I dont really know how to pronounce it.

sophable Sat 20-Jun-09 18:03:49

A survey done in 2004 for the journal 'Science'. Their conclusion, using the standard set by the environmental protection agency was that because of the concentration of pollutants in salmon food, the vast majority of farm raised salmon is only fit to be consumed at a rate of one meal or less per month. The same survey concluded that Scottish farmed salmon should be no more than three times a year. That is from a health RISK point of view.

In other words farmed salmon is dangerous for human consumption.

sophable Sat 20-Jun-09 18:05:28

Can i recommend the book 'Bottom Feeder' by Taras Grescoe. The End of the Line cites much of the same research. If you are really promoting this film, what are you doing selling anything but wild salmon.

It really is not acceptable.

MrKrabs Sat 20-Jun-09 18:06:05

god you are serious today soph.
say tilapia.

sophable Sat 20-Jun-09 18:07:29

Responsibly farmed Tilapia in an enclosed system so that it isn't polluting water sources is fine.

I am very serious about this, dh lives and breathes this stuff, and has been concerned about it for years. We do not eat any farmed salmon and would never give it to ds.

So many people have no idea about this, that's what makes me angry.

MrKrabs Sat 20-Jun-09 18:08:03

you said it right.

well done


sophable Sat 20-Jun-09 18:08:48

I thank you.

sophable Sat 20-Jun-09 18:09:35

apparently you say it with the emphasis on the LAP as in sitting on my lap.


MrKrabs Sat 20-Jun-09 18:12:20

oi how was that party and what did you wear in the end?

sophable Sat 20-Jun-09 18:13:59

was fantastic. wore THOSE shoes. and green dress. and big bangles that matched the shoes.

[fish credibility leaves the building]

MrKrabs Sat 20-Jun-09 18:15:13

no no
i meant the one with the yellow gap top

MrKrabs Sat 20-Jun-09 18:15:27

AND how are the blue shoes? omg

TheUnstrungHarp Sat 20-Jun-09 18:23:29

I had a vague idea that there were issues with farmed salmon, sophable, but didn't know they were so serious. Thanks for bringing it up - have just looked up the study you mentioned.

Was planning to have Waitrose salmon this evening (not so keen now). It says on the packet:

"From Waitrose dedicated farms in locations carefully chosen for their highly oxygenated, fast flowing tidal waters, where the salmon are reared to the highest welfare standards with care for the environment."

You wouldn't think there could possibly be anything wrong, would you? Hope Waitrose fish experts can answer sophable's question.

I avoided farmed salmon in both of my pregnancies, and only eat it occasionally now, much preferring to buy wild salmon. Most people seem to think that I'm mad and that my midwife was mad for suggesting this (I had no idea previously), so I'm glad to have affirmation!

sophable Sat 20-Jun-09 20:13:51

unstrung that packaging is the equivalent of asda 'farmer bloggs bred beef, he really cares' i.e. the only thing that can be said for it is that it is british. it is better than chilean farmed salmon (your cheapest stuff, any economy atlantic salmon). but it is still very bad for your health.

i have to say, that the main reason most people eat salmon is for the health advantage of it being rich in omega 3. but the health advice about farmed salmon is to make sure it is really well cooked and to dispose of it's skin and as much of the oil (where toxins are concentrated) as possible. modern farm techniques increasingly use food which is not rich in omega 3, so the health advantages are gone.

sophable Sat 20-Jun-09 20:15:15

cantsleep you were given very good advice indeed. and same goes for giving farmed salmon to children. not advisable.

sophable Sat 20-Jun-09 20:19:12

have to add that if you look at the study, it says that toxins are greatest in farmed salmon from scotland and faroe islands. less so in chile. HOWEVER, there are far fewer restrictions on anti-biotics and de-licing treatments outside Europe.

TheUnstrungHarp Sat 20-Jun-09 21:11:40

It makes for pretty grim reading doesn't it?

Am very interested to hear what Waitrose have to say on this.

(Didn't know about toxins being concentrated in the skin - I always give it to the cat for a treat. Poor little thing's probably in toxic overload.)

EachPeachPearMum Sat 20-Jun-09 21:24:58

The USDA recommend eating farmed salmon no more than twice a year. We never eat British salmon at all- just Wild Alaskan when I see it. (Only seem to have smoked wild Alaskan at christmas/New Year time- bah!)

BEAUTlFUL Sun 21-Jun-09 00:42:08

How would I know if I'm eatimg farmed salmon, say if it were in a fish pie ready meal?

sophable Sun 21-Jun-09 01:33:48

fish pie ready meal is definitely farmed. probably the cheapest kind of farmed.

if it doesn't say it is wild it is farmed.

MagNacarta Sun 21-Jun-09 08:29:54

Good timing, I posted this week to ask if anyone had some ideas on how to include omega3&6 in our diet more (rather than suppliments). I'm not a huge fish eater although I love sashimi (??) and am a bit lost how to cook it, so I need educating. Which are the best fish for omega 3's and do you have some great ideas on what to do with them?

PS - a lovely man on the Waitrose fish counter saw me floundering (s'cuse pun) and sorted me out wish some salmon and a garnish bag - was fab.

Jumente Sun 21-Jun-09 09:48:09

Oh this is brilliant, feels very 1940s for some reason to be having a housewifely chat all about fish smile

JulesJules Sun 21-Jun-09 12:01:44

Am I right in thinking that squid has no sustainability issues?

DH and the DDs love it - they usually have it with chilli, garlic, a few prawns and squid ink spaghetti. Any other ideas?

Wittering Sun 21-Jun-09 12:31:43

May I ask whether this livechat is on the same basis as I guess the other livechats are?
I.e. usually there is some sleb or author with a book to puff and they come on and talk without money changing hands, on the grounds that they get free publicity and MN gets some interesting content to pull in the punters.

Is that the way this livechat operates? Or are Waitrose paying for the slot? I do kind of feel the terms ought to be clear. This feels much more like a conventional advert than other livechats have, just because of the nature of the product being promoted I suppose -- a supermarket rather than a book.

Jumente Sun 21-Jun-09 12:50:48

You couldn't steal a squid could you.


MrsKitty Sun 21-Jun-09 16:11:53

Wow - the stuff about the salmon is very eye-opening - had no idea - have always felt pleased with myself whenever I manage to get a bit of salmon into DS shock

Anyway...I'm not, and never have been, a fish-eater - I would, however, like DS (age 2.5) to eat a bit more of it for the health benefits (although having a rethink about the salmon now-Eek!) ...Can you recommend and blandish tasting fish that I can tart up with a sauce that is (very) easy to cook and is sold in small portions?

Thanks grin

MrKrabs Sun 21-Jun-09 16:12:23


HuffwardlyRudge Sun 21-Jun-09 16:17:52

I've been a vegetarian for 20+ years. I'd like to start eating fish. Where should I start?

sophable Sun 21-Jun-09 19:09:54

squid is fine on the whole.

jumpjockey Sun 21-Jun-09 19:33:19

Huffwardly - this is probably not the answer you're after but I started eating fish after 13 years veggie-ness in a little village on the south coast in Portugal. Once a year they have a festival where all the statues from the church are taken out to sea and the priest blesses the fishermen and their catch for the year. Said fish are caught and cooked within a few hours. It seemed the best possible way to try... (was there by coincidence not design!) I had a sea bream, very tender flesh and a mild flavour like the sea, if that makes sense.

hmc Sun 21-Jun-09 23:26:03

Gosh, I must tune in for this one!

DisturbinglySexuallyInactive Mon 22-Jun-09 10:58:23

I have a question for Quentin - why do lady gardens sometimes smell of fish?

mrsbaldwin Mon 22-Jun-09 11:08:16

Sadly I don't think I can tune in at 1pm - I have to take the baby trouser shopping ...

But for one reason or another I know an alarming amount about fishing politics grin

So my question is...

The Common Fisheries Policy (under which quotas are set for UK and EU fishermen) has been deemed a failure by almost everyone - politicians, fishermen, scientists etc. (This is because whilst out at sea and unobserved some commercial fishermen maximise their quotas by throwing back dead the fish they catch which won't fetch the best price).

If Waitrose's fish experts ran the world, what would they replace the existing CFP with (and importantly how would they pay to police their new regime, if quotas, bans etc are involved, because the hard bit is not so much making the rules as enforcing them)?

Thanks, MrsBaldwin

mrsbaldwin Mon 22-Jun-09 11:10:27

Oh and BTW I am looking forward to seeing the film at the Frontline screening in July - hoping there will be fishy canapes sponsored by Waitrose (hint hint)..

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 12:36:09

jeez, have been hiding head in sand about salmon

<strikes salmon stakes off Ocado order>

Do Ocado Waitrose sell wild salmon then?

And <drumroll> does anyone really poach a whole one in the dishwasher? Really? grin

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 12:36:44


<dies of shame>

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 12:37:12

Or should that be sheam? grin

Squidward Mon 22-Jun-09 12:37:35

i wonder

Squidward Mon 22-Jun-09 12:38:40
LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 12:45:59

heh heh that's so funny. What a 'kin arse: putting it in with the dishes and a tablet.

And not <ahem> a whole salmon.

Squidward Mon 22-Jun-09 12:47:19

Justine will be on in a min
i heard a rumour they paid £1k to have this

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 12:56:26

i think there is a real opportunity for waitrose here for them to be at the vanguard of changing attitudes and educating about fish.

please please do read my posts and don't come back with an argument that the farmed salmon you stock is better because of less stocking in cages and faster flowing water because in the end they all use SLICE and the differences are minimal. All the health and environmental issues stand unaddressed.

The public don't realise that we're paying a potentially health and planet threatening price for fish like salmon (which used to be a once or twice a year luxury for most) to become cheap and plentiful.

I've started with salmon but we could go into farmed seabass, prawns etc.

There are fish that are sustainable, plentiful and that waitrose can and should be plugging like crazy.

Waitrose is a supermarket that demarcates itself as treating it's customers with intelligence. You've lead the way on free range eggs. It's time you stopped stocking fish that is both bad for us, for the ocean and ultimately for the planet.

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 22-Jun-09 12:58:07

Thanks for all the questions so far - Neil and Quentin will be along soon to start answering them.

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:00:23

This is Quentin Clark and I am the senior fish buyer at Waitrose. Thanks to all of you for joining us today. Just to let you know why we are here hosting this chat. We supported the launch of the film "End of The Line" because this was a great way to raise the profile of something we have been working on for a long time- the sustainable sourcing of fish. It a complex area so a web chat is a really good way to discuss the issues with interested people. Hope I can help and excuse my spelling when typing at speed.

NeilNugent Mon 22-Jun-09 13:02:41

Hi All
My name is Neil Nugent the Exec Chef at Waitrose- I develop food for our brand as well as recipes etc. Happy tp answer any Q's on cooking and preparing Fish- Cheers Neil

traceybath Mon 22-Jun-09 13:03:57

Just wanted to say that the people on the fish counter in the Bath store are fab - knowledgeable and considerably more helpful than at the very expensive fish mongers close by.

But would definitely like more information on which fish are sustainable and ideally for you to stop selling the ones that are over-fished.

And more recipes please for the cod pretender type fish.

whooosh Mon 22-Jun-09 13:06:08

Neil-is there a failsafe way for me to cook fish and NOT have it stink the whole house out?
Even when wrapped tightly in foil I see to have the problem.

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:07:10

First off lets look at how you can tell if fish is sustainable. You can look for some third party certification such as the MSC which has a blue tick on the pack or ticket but the trouble is there are lots of them around the world so it gets confusing. We know that so we took the decision to make sure all the fish we sell meet the following criteria.
Must not be an endangered or threatened species
Must come from a fishery that is scientifically managed so the stocks are healthy
Must be using the most environmentally friendly catching method possible
Must be fully traceable so no illegal fish can get into the supply chain ( and keeps up the quality)- you need to ask.

NeilNugent Mon 22-Jun-09 13:10:16

Just the questions around cooking fish for younger children-
One thing in preparing the fish is to remove the bones- you can ask your fishmonger to do do this but a pair of tweezers are a handy tool to remove the odd stray one-
cook the fish very simply either by poaching, pan frying or roasting- Sauces that enhance fish or encourage kids to eat fish are good- sauce depends on fish species. Example poaches salmon- tomato sauce- works well. N

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:11:54

For Doyouthinktheysaurus
Are certain types of fish more sustainable than others? Definitely- but its down to where it comes from too. Cod is great from Iceland or Norway but not from the North Sea for example. Good thing to check is the list from fishonline.org which lists all the fish recomendations from the Marine Conservation Society.

I'd like to know about not stinking the whole house out too - if it's poss.

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 13:13:19

'Cod is great from Norway, but not the North Sea'? Is there some other secret sea that Norway have then or am I being thick?

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 13:14:23

Could you have a look at sophable's posts about salmon please? Very important questions there. TBH we all know how to put a sauce on some fish and to ask you guys to bone etc etc. The big issues are the MN issues...

Squidward Mon 22-Jun-09 13:14:25

Agree - the assistants are your USP in this area and in the other bits of your store - all seem to be "nice young men" here wink.

Also love the foil spacebags. Great for freezing

NeilNugent Mon 22-Jun-09 13:14:52

On -"smelling the house out" if the fish is fresh- it shouldn't be too smelly- although things like smoked fish can be bit smelly- best to poach fish gently or "en papillote" which is cooked in a seeled bag in the oven- we sell our fish in bags of our counter- it a brilliant and simple method. N

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:15:35

wild cod isn't 'great' from anywhere.

yes it is better in terms of sustainability from those areas, but the species is under global threat. far better to promote other kinds of white fish.

Squidward Mon 22-Jun-09 13:16:11

WHat is with the trendy new butters Neil? I havent tried them but they solve the " how do I cook this" issue

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:17:31

"Greenpeace requests stronger regulations in Norwegian fisheries, in particular to minimize the by-catch of threatened redfish, halibut and coastal cod in the cod fisheries."

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:18:07

cod, tuna (certainly anything but skipjack), farmed salmon. shouldn't really be on your shelves should they?

Squidward Mon 22-Jun-09 13:18:09

do you think Mark Price needs to eat more fish a little bit?

and runs...

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:20:24

I should make very clear that I'm a longstanding mumsnetter, belong to no lobbying group. I happen to be married to someone that is passionate about what he sees (quite rightly) as the disaster unfolding in terms of our seas. He has read 'the end of the line' as well as numerous other well researched books on the subject. we talk about it a lot.

just to clarify where I'm coming from.

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:20:31

to Sophable
There is a lot of discussion about farmed fish and is it good or bad. The main isses are environmental, welfare and sustainability.
A lot of care is taken to make sure that the sites are in areas that have high tidal flow so that it is kept clean and actually the fish have to swim -that keeps them lean and fit. Welfare at Waitrose is a key priority and we stock with fewer fish to give them plenty of room. The whole thing about the environmental siting really helps too. Sustainability of the feed is next. We have similar principles for the sustainability of the feed as we do for our fish for sale. One thing we wont do is to take out the marine ingredients and replace with vegetable materials. Why? Salmon are carnivores and it is better for them and we want the omega 3 to be there when you eat the fish later.

NeilNugent Mon 22-Jun-09 13:20:43

Ref: HUFWARDLY RUDGE- can you eat fish eyes and tongues: Yes you can- though eyes are pretty grim- the tongues are delicious as are cheeks- they go for a real premium in some countries- I once cooked at the Cod museum in Bergen and my starter was Tongue and cheek- with persillade (Parsley dressing)> N

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 13:21:33

I did cry at the tuna programme on South Pacific the other day. Horrific industrial fishing methods.

Line fishing good all round.

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 13:22:32

hmm, sense a bit of avoiding the issue there Quentin...

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:22:55

your 'marine ingredients' are baby fish. 3lb of them for every 1 lb of farmed salmon produced. your 'marine ingredients' are part of the sustainability problem of the wider seas aren't they?

your producers still use SLICE and other highly toxic chemicals in order to keep the salmon from being covered in lice.

your producers still dye the flesh of the farmed salmon in order that the naturally grey appearance is disguised.

please don't fob me off in this way.

NeilNugent Mon 22-Jun-09 13:24:25

to Squid ward- The new butters are great, along with the foil bags- they do solve a problem- easy to cook and they very gently steam the fish. N

TheUnstrungHarp Mon 22-Jun-09 13:24:30

Quentin, thanks for that, but you haven't really addressed the issue of the health risk posed by farmed salmon. Do you believe that farmed salmon does not pose any risk to health?

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:25:25

in short your farmed salmon is still no safer to eat more than once a month (for an adult) as described in the 2004 study below.

why are you justifying it? surely better to educate and increase your sales of wild alaskan salmon?

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:26:24

Looking at fish species in general.
I dont want to continually advertise our offer but all the fish we sell meets our criteria for sustainability but.... we also encourage people to look around and try new species. Great for the cooking repetoire and helps to take any pressure off. Why not try Whiting, Pollack or coley as a change from cod? Tilapia is a great fish and is farmed using mainly vegetarian food because it is a vegetarian fish.

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 13:26:29

imagine the market share among MNers middle class educated lentil-weavers if you had sophable as your fish head (see what I did there?)

No. But seriously. We would buy more.

fishie Mon 22-Jun-09 13:26:35

i buy fish at a london waitrose every week. and i am just not seeing the range of sustainably sourced fish which there could be - just a bit of whiting, ocasionally some mackerel. otherwise it is all farmed or cod, haddock etc.

can you tell us about your plans to introduce more variety.

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:27:26

and you haven't mentioned the catastrophe that is chilean seabass, nor addressed the issue of tuna.

you're on here puporting to be promoting sustainability!

the fact that you are far better than any other supermarket in this respect is a bit of a pyrrhic (sp?) victory. it needs acknowledging but doesn't get you off the hook.

Squidward Mon 22-Jun-09 13:28:56

Now i have met sophable and her head looked perfectly normal to me.


TheUnstrungHarp Mon 22-Jun-09 13:30:59

Quentin/Neil, is there anything at all you can say that might persuade mumsnetters to feed your beautifully packaged but apparently toxic farmed salmon to our children?

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:31:02

Farmed salmon does not pose any risk to health. In fact the benefits of the omega 3 far outweigh any possible concerns over the past issues of PCBs etc which have been present in all foods in minute and decreasing amounts following action in the 1980s to limit the industrial processes responsible.

champagnesupernova Mon 22-Jun-09 13:31:52

I get my groceries delivered (ocado) as I work q long hours and live in a fairly rural area (so no Nigella-esque fishmonger round the corner).

I therefore don't get to see the "nice young men" hmmwink at teh counter and ask for filleting and to know what's freshest.
What is best way to try new fish for someone restricted in this way?

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:32:19


Squidward Mon 22-Jun-09 13:33:07

now you have a fish head

TheUnstrungHarp Mon 22-Jun-09 13:33:14

Quentin, the study that recommended eating farmed salmon no more than once a month was from 2004, not the 1980's

NeilNugent Mon 22-Jun-09 13:33:23

Other species are Mackerel and Sardines- simple to cook and and prepare- simply grill them or this time of year they go well on the BBQ- once cooked-they scream for lemon juice and freshly ground pepper. N

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:34:10

Mrs SeanBean
How do you tell if a fish is fresh?
Fresh fish does not smell, it has clean clear eyes and red ( not brown) gills. In fact sometimes people complain of a lack of flavour from very fresh fish - so you can keep it a bit longer if you like. Our cod was swimming on Monday if you buy on Thursday.

Squidward Mon 22-Jun-09 13:34:40

oh dont say that , that makes me feel rather sad for it!

MiniMarmite Mon 22-Jun-09 13:38:34

Hi, I think it is great that Waitrose is sponsoring this film and find that Waitrose does stock more sustainably sourced fish than my other local supermarkets (I live in the Greater London area).

Having said that I still find that there is not the range that I am looking for, the usual suspects of cod, salmon and haddock seem to be the norm. There are wonderful fish in our waters and it seems that a lot of the good stuff is still being sold to France and Spain - where are the langoustine and local prawns for example?

Does Waitrose have plans to change this?

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:38:38

Sorry I was not referring to that - Just the industrial processes current in the 1980s were responsible for the background level of PCBs etc in the environment. They are now 25% less than then and will halve again in the next 10 years. Levels are very low and we carefully monitor levels to make sure we are ok.

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 13:39:45

What is an OK level of PCBs in fish then? And what consequences of those levels are there?

NeilNugent Mon 22-Jun-09 13:40:06

To ChampagneSupernova-
You can get filleted fish which can be boneless and very easy to prepare- salmon fillets for example can be seared and served in minutes- with a rocket salad- or try our mackerel fillets- cooked with a little butter and lemon- finished with caper berries and finely shallots.N

fishie Mon 22-Jun-09 13:41:03

minimarmite i said exactly the same thing a bit earlier. it is all very well recommdening we buy mackerel and sardines but you have to stock the sodding things neil.

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:41:36

We take fish from anywhere that meets our strict quality and sustainabilty criteria. We are taking great seabass from Wales for example and have lots of fish from Cornwall. We love new sources of fish and constantly look out for them. We will have a look at your suggestions.

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:41:55

A survey in 2004 which is five years ago (so your argument that this has been falling to negligible levels since the 80s) in Science (a respected peer reviewed journal suggests you are very wrong about this.

if you mean it is fine for an adult to eat a half to one portion of farmed salmon once a month then please qualify your response accordingly.

PCBs do not biodegrade. The point is that they are present in farmed salmon in extremely concentrated levels (remember the 3lb of baby fish to 1 lb of farmed fish?). Besides the PCBs, farmed salmon contain relatively high levels of antibiotics (they are prone to disease as salmon are a fast running fish that travel thousands of kilometers in the wild, it isn't surprising that stocking them in cages causes problems is it).

the Anti-licing treatments which ALL farmed salmon are treated with are described by the manufacturers as toxic to marine life.

I guess the least of it is the dye that you use to turn the grey flaccid flesh a palatable (?) orange.

Please don't mislead in this way.

NeilNugent Mon 22-Jun-09 13:42:46

to Flappythebat- Talapia does need a bit help to bring out the flavour- I find seared and finished with lime juice, little chilli and coriander works well. serve with steamed rice and pak choy, N

fishie Mon 22-Jun-09 13:44:27

sprats. i'd like to see them.

Lilymaid Mon 22-Jun-09 13:45:20

Why do you now call skate "Ray" (yes know that skate is ray) and is it overfished?

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:45:56

moving on (as i feel like a stuck record and you are clearly not going to address my concerns on farmed salmon in any way), when is waitrose going to clearly label all of it's fish with precise (easy to read, same sized print as everything else) species (for example not just 'tuna' but 'skipjack' or 'yellowtail') and specify how it was caught and where (NOT where it was processed).

I find I have to ask whether fish is farmed (trout, seabass) invariably at your fish counter. the answer sadly is usually that it is.

MiniMarmite Mon 22-Jun-09 13:45:59

Thank you :-) some prawns from Norfolk would be just lovely!

I do feel quite concerned about the large amount of prawns available from far-flung places where working conditions are reported to be extremely poor. What is Waitrose's approach when sourcing this type of product.

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:46:06

I will post a detailed response after the webchat as I don't have the exact numbers or web references to hand.

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:46:30

yes skate is overfished. i thought that waitrose had stopped stocking it (doh emoticon).

MiniMarmite Mon 22-Jun-09 13:46:51

Sorry, missed out the '?'

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:50:05

Skate ( The common Skate) is endangered and we dont sell it. We do sell ray species that are not are sustainable and that is why we have changed the name to Ray so that customers know they are ok to buy.

NeilNugent Mon 22-Jun-09 13:50:08

to Fishie- we do stock both Mack and Sardines (tinned as well)- Have a chat with our fishmonger if he doesn't have them available- not sure why he wouldn't they are very popular species. N

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:50:58

Sorry - typing not great
We do sell ray species that are are sustainable and that is why we have changed the name to Ray so that customers know they are ok to buy.

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:52:58

quentin, is there any way of contacting you after this discussion in order to talk further about waitrose's fishing policy?

I do acknowledge that Waitrose are by far the best retailer (although M&S might be pipping you, they've just withdrawn all tuna other than skipjack).

Far more needs to be done though.

NeilNugent Mon 22-Jun-09 13:54:29

to MagnaCarta- We are looking at Sashimi- its very specific cuts and techniques and we might trial it in our London stores.
also best fish for Omega 3 are Mackerel and Salmon. N

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:56:33

Prawns. We have to buy the tropical prawns from tropical areas where they are farmed. Cold water ( smaller) come from the northern seas. I am proud to say we will be launching the first Fair Trade Prawn soon ( secret smile!!

EachPeachPearMum Mon 22-Jun-09 13:57:51

Will that prawn have been prepared anywhere near where it was fished? Or will it have travelled to the phillipines first?

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 13:58:02

Please feel free to contact me through the Waitrose forum www.waitrose.com and I can pick up any discussion treads with you through that.

lisalisa Mon 22-Jun-09 13:58:08

Sophable - I am just catching up with this and reading it - in shock about the salmon. I had absolutely no idea eating salmon was so dangerous for human health. Sigh - just when I'd got the kids to eat something high in essential fatty acids. Is there a suitable replacement?

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 22-Jun-09 13:58:13

Only a few minutes left until Neil and Quentin have to finish - thanks for coming on to you both. And thanks Quentin for saying you'll post more for LupusinaLlamasuit later.

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:59:07

pretty poor show i'm afraid.

TheUnstrungHarp Mon 22-Jun-09 13:59:10

Thanks Quentin and Neil, looking forward to your info on PCBs.

EachPeachPearMum Mon 22-Jun-09 13:59:20

Did you like fish when you were children?

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 13:59:41

i'd really like to see that information too, perhaps quentin could post it on this thread so that we can all see it?

MiniMarmite Mon 22-Jun-09 14:00:37

I suppose my question is, can any of us really justify eating tropical prawns? I have stopped buying them altogether (despite huge cravings for them). It's just a shame that our own local product (much, much smaller) is rarely available.

NeilNugent Mon 22-Jun-09 14:01:02

Quick Coley recipe- Pan roast fillet with spinach pine nuts and sultanas- sear the coley fillets in a hot ovenable pan in a little olive oil- finish cooking in a warm oven (120C) for 5/6 mins- Try not to over cook- once cooked remove from pan onto a bed of cooked buttered spinach, add a knob of butter, handful of pine nuts and sultanas- a good squeeze of lemon then dress, cook for 2 mins until butter melted, nuts colour and sultanas puff up- add a little salt and serve over fish. N

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:01:40

you know it would be so much easier and more credible to say:

yeah, we know there are big issues with farmed salmon. but our customers want cheap smoked salmon and if we don't stock it then we will lose money and footfall.

same for tuna. same for cod.

QuentinClark Mon 22-Jun-09 14:01:46

Thanks to everybody - it's great everybody is asking such good questions and I hope you found it useful. It is a massive subject and I know we have just touched the tip of the iceberg. I also know that you probably don't have the time to follow up on everything when you shop so hopefully you can see that we have tried to make it that much easier when you buy and cook fish

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:03:48

i hate to say it but i have visions of a flurry of phone and emails trying to get hold of information (hard data) that will back up the 'farmed salmon is safe to eat' claim.

lots and lots of that PR available from farmed salmon producers quentin don't worry.

Like most things that money is where the industry is, so that 2004 study has yet to be followed up, as who wants to pay for it.

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:04:36

huge credit to waitrose for trying though.

but must try harder.

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 14:05:06

'I also know that you probably don't have the time to follow up on everything when you shop'.

Hmm. Isn't one of the lessons of this thread that in fact we do have time to follow up on everything when we shop because being informed consumers is pretty important to many of us here on MN?

Methinks they were expecting us to be something quite different.

yappybluedog Mon 22-Jun-09 14:07:44

I think you frightened them sophable grin

fair play to you

aliceinwunderland Mon 22-Jun-09 14:08:05

i will try the coley recipe thanks pine nuts and fish sound lovely. lots more questions to be asked though of waitrose and other retailers, i will question my fish! but fair play to waitorse for standing up to it, AIW

FiveGoMadInDorset Mon 22-Jun-09 14:10:07

Sorry I missed most of this, any recipes for huss which we buy regularly?

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:11:44

it so often happens. i think they expect it to be a lovely PR moment. it never is on mn.

justine you should issue a warning...don't expect thick non-questioning gratitude for the wisdom you are about to impart! MNers question EVERYTHING.

thank god.

I'm disappointed that sophable's points weren't addressed. I couldn't make the live chat but was hoping for some information from Waitrose.

I wonder if they thought we were all little housewives just wanting a few fish recipes?

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:13:15

ahhh, nigel was sweet (visions of quentin getting increasingly wound up with nigel running round interjecting lovely recipes with pinenuts!! )

ComeOVeneer Mon 22-Jun-09 14:14:01

WOW soph am seriously impressed. I agree I think you had the a bit flustered, not what they were expecting at all!

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:14:51

the classic thing is that as a direct result of the publicity surrounding 'the end of the line' M&S have withdrawn all tuna except skipjack. pret a manger are not going to do tuna sandwiches anymore. this is huge stuff.

quentin offered us some fair trade prawns....bit lame? (he's lucky i didn't get onto the heinousness of farmed tropical prawns!!!!)

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 14:14:54

Presumably Daisy knows what she's in for though? grin

TheUnstrungHarp Mon 22-Jun-09 14:15:01

Well I hope they feel they got their money's worth anyway.

Hard to know who to believe on the subject of safety in farmed salmon - the independent peer-reviewed scientific study, or the fishmonger that's trying to flog the fish grin

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 14:16:05

grin damn those pesky independent studies

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:16:21

it's dh not me. unfortunately he couldn't make the webchat.

i have to live with him bending my ear about it every day so it was nice to be able to actually do something (small).

shit have just realised it's neil not nigel. that's not very good. won't endear me to them (bit late for that).

apologies neil.

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:17:53

unstrung pmsl.

i expect some poor PR minion will get their heads bitten off for not researching how these webchats have been known to go.

you've got to engage properly that's the thing. flippin whatsisface, erm, judge from britains got talent, piers morgan did REALLY well in the end cause he took it on the chin and gave back.

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 14:18:57

tony parsons was very good

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 14:19:23

and Alan Johnson

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:20:03

yes. agreed he was.

thingy goldsmith didn't even come on she got so much stick prior.

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:20:47

yes he was good too.

get germaine greer on. i would faint.

FiveGoMadInDorset Mon 22-Jun-09 14:21:15

OK, just read it, and talk about avoidance, we buy stuff from our local lobster fisherman who line fishes while out, so it could be absolute hit andmissabout what he gets.

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 14:21:18

I do not MNHQ have not stickied DG's live webchat TOMORROW


LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 14:21:35


sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:22:01


LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 14:22:57

Daisy Goodwin

Bah, didn't answer either of my questions. Didn't seem to achieve a lot in the hour really.

Do let us know how you get on with your further contact sophable.

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 14:24:45

I see you found out who she is sophable grin

TheUnstrungHarp Mon 22-Jun-09 14:25:47

Was completely unaware of that one. Am guessing DG hasn't paid for the chat then grin

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:28:42

no he's not further contacting me (referred me to waitrose.com!!!) he's further contacting lupusina...allegedly. clearly she's going to cut and paste it onto here right?

equally she's going to let us know if he hasn't been in touch by the end of the week (which should be easily sufficient).

ComeOVeneer Mon 22-Jun-09 14:30:27

Sophable, to quote him, he did say

"Please feel free to contact me through the Waitrose forum www.waitrose.com and I can pick up any discussion treads with you through that."

So you may get some answers. I'm not exactly holding my breath though.

I meant via the Waitrose forum soph. Can't imagine you not following up on this, given how passionate you are about it.

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 14:30:33

Oh yes, do not fear. I am waiting to report back with baited breath...

yappybluedog Mon 22-Jun-09 14:33:38

that was very lame, referring you to Waitrose.com

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:35:34

i agree

sophable Mon 22-Jun-09 14:43:07

just heard from dh who made the very important point that respect is due to waitrose for even engaging with this debate.

where is tescos???

(he also pointed out that the 'scientifically managed' (as per waitroses first post) claim is tosh as all fisheries are, which hasn't stopped bluefin tuna and newfoundland cod becoming extinct as scientists have mortgages too and have a tendency to tell their paymasters what they want to hear).

Squidward Mon 22-Jun-09 14:58:51

soph oyu dont have to eat it more than once a month do you?

TheUnstrungHarp Mon 22-Jun-09 15:03:10

sophable, what does your dh make of their account of background pcb levels now being "very low"?

Wittering Mon 22-Jun-09 15:16:10

"respect is due to waitrose for even engaging with this debate"

-- It is possible to overstate that, though, isn't it? Bcs of pressures from consumers (and the ultimate possibilities of legal/regulatory prohibitions on some products) they have to consider environmental implications of what they sell. It isn't (largely) because they are virtuous.

Plus, there is the 'no publicity is bad publicity' thing. MNers have had the words 'fish' 'Waitrose' 'fish' 'Waitrose' 'Waitrose fish' floating across their fields of vision for a few days. That is pretty good value at £1000.

Bramshott Mon 22-Jun-09 15:34:59

The point is though that Waitrose are thinking about and engaging with this stuff, whereas most of the other supermarkets are still spouting bland "our consumers have told us that they want . . . " stuff.

HuffwardlyRudge Mon 22-Jun-09 19:35:32

What an interesting discussion.

Dd will be pleased she can eat the eyes and tongue. Thank you Neil.

Overall, this discussion has made me realise that I don't know enough about the sustainability of various fish to confidently buy something and know it is an ethically sound choice. The farmed / toxins issue is the nail in the coffin and I think fish is now off the menu in the Rudge household.

Dd won't get to eat her eyes after all.

mollyroger Mon 22-Jun-09 19:48:29

just want to share this which I have rediscovered after many years

eat them up, yum!

Squidward Mon 22-Jun-09 19:49:02

I liked em, can we have Waitrose back again sometime to talk " things"?
Like when they bin those bloody green "tokens of patronisation" ( aka that charidee things) and how they make their staff so Stepfordianly nice?

MiniMarmite Mon 22-Jun-09 20:10:20

Yes, lets have them back (and I'll try not to turn up 5 minutes before the end next time hmm) .

LupusinaLlamasuit Mon 22-Jun-09 22:42:55

Well. Quentin hasn't rushed back to his office and put that query straight into his critical zone. No follow up yet.

MrSophable Mon 22-Jun-09 23:02:58

With all due humility I'd like to add a couple of things to this debate and explain my misgivings about farmed fish in particular, probably unnecessarily as my lovely wife has already made a better case than I ever could. Apologies in advance for a post that will inevitably be too long.

As Quentin said the main issues were- environmental impact, welfare, and sustainability. I would add a fourth - health.

-taking the health issue first: the 2004 research of Hites et al in Science which found dangerous levels of PCB's was based on a survey of 2 tonnes of atlantic salmon. Thats a lot of fish. The conclusion that US and Candian salmon should only be consumed once a month, and scottish salmon consumption would be best restricted to 3 meals a year, is based on the US Environmental Agency's idea of what is a safe level of PCB's (its in the order of 30 parts per billion i believe). Its worth noting that salmon farmers- generally employees of a handful of huge corporations who divvy up this multi billion pound industry- have so far been unable to produce any substantive (in fact I can't seem to find any at all) research to contradict these findings. Instead they use the FDA's 1984 assessment of 'safe' levels of PCB's (2000 parts per billion). Personally I'm not comfortable with that. Quentin was right that PCBs are present in a lot of what we eat but in farmed salmon the levels are unacceptably high in my opinion.
Nor am I comfortable with a food that has been treated with marine toxins like SLICE which is required to kill the plague like infestations of sea lice which infest cages (salmon were simply not built to exist in confined spaces throughout their life cycle). I don't much like the idea of my fish supper having rubbed its fins partially off on cages treated with anti fouling paints -usually Flexgard which is stored in containers marked 'toxic to acquatic organsisms). Another survey found that parasites like tapeworms have been passed on in Chilean farmed salmon when eaten raw. And I worry about antibiotics used on farmed salmon with unknown impact on those consuming the fish.

-Environmentally: salmon farming has a terrible environmental record and continues to cause significant and scary damage to the environment. Just a few of the issues: escaped fish (millions of them) outcompeting wild fish and diluting their gene pools not to mention spreading diseases to local wild populations; anti fouling chemicals used on the cages leave heavy metal residues (a 2007 survey found extremely high levels of copper and cadmium on sea beds benath farms);farm induced sea lice infestations have very probably caused the catastrophic decline of wild populations of migratory fish ...and we can go on (all of the health issues for humans consuming farmed salmon are played out in the acquatic life found in fjords and sea lochs where the farms are based- contaminated shellfish, algal blooms etc etc).

-Welfare: atlantic salmon are a migratory fish. in farms they are packed in, often allocated the equivalent of a bathtub of water each-its battery farming. To me its questionable at best but I think its the least of the problems.

-sustainability: taking 3 pounds of wild fish and rendering it into pellets to raise one pound of farmed salmon cannot, in my opinion, be sustainable. In a world of food shortages its insane.It decreases the net amount of protein . Anchovies and sand eels and all sorts of juvenile fish are being hoovered up to feed farmed salmon. Krill too now. These populations are being overfished in a way that is not sustainable. In fact one third of the total world catch is ground up into fsh meal (approx 30 million tonnes in 2007) and 3 5 million tonnes of that goes to feed salmon.
So Waitrose support a film which is all about overfishing while selling and indeed promoting a product which drives overfishing . Its more defensible on grounds of sustainability to eat a mature cod which has at least had time to breed in its life, than to eat farmed salmon.
Seabird populations appear to be in decline, and we know wild fsh populations are suffering on a number of fronts- salmon farming has to be making that worse.
Salmon can be raised with a lower ratio of wild fish in their feed but then the Omega 3 level starts dropping as Quentin himself pointed out.

I think Waitrose should be respected if not applauded for at least engaging in the debate (cf. Tescos, Sainsburys et al). Of course they are cashing in on a 'green' issue, using the film to give themselves an edge. Thats OK- if the film has provoked any change thats good news, but they need to be consistent, not just engage in token support, or take the convenient way out of what Quentin rightly said was a very complex debate.

Farming fish undoubtedly has a crucial role to play in the long term solution to the fishing crisis but salmon farming as currently practised is not part of the solution its a big pat of the crisis.

Sorry-gone on for far too long and I haven't even got started on farmed prawns!

Thank you MrSophable, as well as to Sophable. You have raised an issue about which I knew nothing. Farmed salmon is definitely off the menu in the BIWI house from now on!

(DS2 will be thrilled)

TheUnstrungHarp Mon 22-Jun-09 23:17:52

Thanks so much Mr Sophable - and Sophable for raising this. I don't think we will be buying any more farmed salmon (for the environmental/sustainability/welfare issues as much as for the health risks).

Absolutely agree that, however commercial their motives, Waitrose are doing a very good thing by engaging with the fish problem in the way that they are. Hope others will follow suit.

MrSophable Mon 22-Jun-09 23:25:28

Thank you BecauseI'mWorthIt.

The fish issue may seem like a bit of a side track when there are so many massive global problems, and particularly bigger 'human' issues to worry about , but overfishing is steadily destroying the livelihood of hundreds of millions of people who depend on the sea. I think it really is a crisis we should all be concerned about whether we enjoy seafood or not.

The health issues with acquaculture are also a serious concern- and one which must be addressed because farmed fish are going to be part of the long term solution. At the moment it simply gets dismissed by the fish farming lobby.

By the way there are grave health issues with many wild fish populations too- chiefly mercury levels which mostly become a problem in large predatory fish like the larger tuna species, sharks, halibut and swordfish. We simply should not eat -or catch- as many of these top of the food chain fish as we do.

But there are some forms of farmed fish which at least address a number of these problems- fish farmed in closed containment systems (thence little environmental impact), and fish fed vegetarian feed (addresses the sustainability issues). If fisheries were properly managed (which virtually none of them are) then its conceivable that the inevitable bycatch that currently gets dumped, dead , over the side of fishing vessels at sea could be used to raise fish-and prawns- in a sustainable way.

There may be so many other massive global problems, but what we feed our families is a vital issue and at least we have the power do something about it.

What my family eats is a key concern to me, and although I'm as guilty as the next man woman of being lazy and relying on shortcuts occasionally, the thought that I would be feeding them something that is dangerous fills me with horror.

QuentinClark Tue 23-Jun-09 10:53:09

Firstly, thanks to everyone for logging on over the weekend and yesterday and taking part in the discussion. I think that it was always going to be hard to deal with the complex issues of a sustainable fishing policy in a short web chat. This has taken us 12 years and unfortunately one hour of webchatting only gave me time to post a few hasty responses to a few well directed questions

Firstly eating fish.
There is no reason to stop eating fish - it is a vital and healthy part of any diet quite apart from being delicious. What we MUST all do is to support sustainable fishing. Wherever you choose to buy your fish from, we are just urging you to ensure that it is from sustainable sources so that we all become part of the solution -not part of the problem.

Now fish farming.
Half the fish we sell is farmed and we are very aware that farming on its own is not a solution because of the impact on wild species used for feed etc. That is why we apply similar criteria to the sourcing of wild feed species as we do to the fish we have for human consumption. We also use the waste from the fish production in the feed at around 25%. The replacement of marine oils and proteins with vegetable substitutes is cheaper but we will not do that because it is bad for the fish and eventually we want to offer nutritious fish with high omega 3 levels in the correct balance to the omega 6.

The other issue is that of residual PCBs and dioxins that are persistent in the environment following industrial activity before the 1980s. The issue is one of risk. The levels are extremely low, subject to control and monitoring and declining.The benefits of eating oily fish far outweigh the absolutely minuscule risk and in fact not doing so increases the risk of other negatives such as cardio vascular disease. This is at the route of governmet advice to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be an oily fish. There are many examples of how we need to balance risk. There is a minute risk associated with vaccinations but a much bigger one associated with not vaccinating.

We sponsored the film "End of The Line" just to raise the profile of the debate in this way but there is no better way to see what we are talking about than to see it yourself. I would like to extend a personal invitation to Sophable to come to Scotland and visit our salmon farming operation up there. We will pay for the flight and hotel accommodation and it would take about two days. Sophable, over to you...

It is inevitable that some will see our involvement in sustainable fishing as some sort of gimmick. I can assure you that this is not true and we want to be able to continue selling fish forever. We can use our buying effort to encourage change and that is just what we do. This is a journey towards the ultimate solution to solve the issue we all face. Waitrose is still on that journey, we are constantly debating with and taking advice from a variety of stakeholders on how to get there. We may not all agree about the approach, but from your comments, I believe we all share the same goal. All fish you can buy in Waitrose meets our four point sustainability plan including frozen.

Lastly Waitrose.com and the forum. We encourage open dialogue with all our customers through the Waitrose Forum. Just log on to www.waitrose.com, hit the "Forum" button and join the community. The team and I personally answer all questions raised. We will answer you questions as soon as time allows and there are already many discussion threads running that cover a vast range of issues. If you want me or my team to answer please use the "Food Issues" category.

Thank you for all your thoughts on this subject and I look forward to talking with you again on the forum.

Ooh Sophable! Lucky you!

Thank you Quentin. Definitely food for thought, if you'll pardon the pun. Luckily for me, although we don't have a Waitrose near us, we have had a new wet fish shop just open, so fish is something we can explore a bit more. (Started on Saturday with dinner party menu of crab and sea bass - but have no idea about how sustainable!)

yappybluedog Tue 23-Jun-09 12:03:04

forum here

TheUnstrungHarp Tue 23-Jun-09 12:21:26

Thanks very much Quentin. I'm still rather confused as to why the 2004 study should have recommended eating farmed salmon no more than once a month if it is true that the risk is "absolutely miniscule", so I have to say that it's still off the menu in this house - but perhaps Sophable will come back with lots of reassuring information after her visit.

Fantastic, though, that you are addressing these sustainability issues.

Squidward Tue 23-Jun-09 12:54:38

wow soph!

well done!

MiniMarmite Tue 23-Jun-09 13:35:55

Thanks for taking the time to come back and follow up on some of the issues touched on yesterday.

I feel genuinely happy that Waitrose is taking steps towards improving access to all to appropriately sourced fish (and other foods). As you say yourself, there is a very long way to go.

I'll be sure to contribute to the forum - presumuably the more customer demand there is for truly sustainable food the easier it is for Waitrose to justify meeting that demand.

sophable Tue 23-Jun-09 13:40:09

this should definitely be dh (mrsophable, have you seen his post quentin? any responses to it?), he knows far more about it than I do and will be able to ask the right questions. He was on the waitrose.com website last night posting extensively on this issue, I'll be glad to let you know his posting name as soon as I've had permission from him.

I will talk to him tonight. Is there a way of contacting you directly on this Quentin?

I would urge all mners to read mrsophable's post of 23:02 yesterday. Especially you Quentin, do let us know your responses.

I am going to cut and paste it onto a new thread as I think it deserves it. I am very proud of my husband's passion on this issue.

MiniMarmite Tue 23-Jun-09 14:18:59

Maybe you should both go (if possible) - you should both feel proud. It is an extremely important issue.

sophable Tue 23-Jun-09 14:21:08

One (or both) of us would definitely like to take you up on your offer Quentin. Please let me know how to contact you directly.

LupusinaLlamasuit Tue 23-Jun-09 15:33:06

Wow. Thanks Quentin. Thanks very much for taking us seriously. And do, please take Mrsophable AND sophable: there's nothing like buying off your critics information sharing for increasing support. grin

I'm joking.

You know we all love Waitrose here and that you are at least prepared to respond almost properly is fantastic. I would have liked you to tell me more about the actual levels of PCBs etc that are both acceptable AND found in fish, and what consequences this has, but anyhow, I can almost certainly find that out myself (and will now I am educated by the sophables).

I think you will have to do an official MN blog from your trip sophable? Like PolicyWonk but a bit, erm, pongier?

AitchTwoOh Tue 23-Jun-09 15:59:05

and with that one offer, costing waitrose very little, the mood lifts. well done whichever mkting brain came up with that. smile if only all shops would communicate with their customers like this. give em hell,mr and mrs soph, remember your midgie repellent.

sophable Tue 23-Jun-09 16:55:39

I've just spoken to lady at Waitrose. They are happy for it to be dh that goes. They are happy for him to film. Or be filmed.

They were keen to emphasise that they didn't pay money for this webchat and were invited to do it by MNtowers (confirmation please?)


AitchTwoOh Tue 23-Jun-09 16:57:36

can't you both go? you'd be so loved up at getting away from RL that you'd distract each other with the constant goosing and therefore be less potent a force for good. i thought they'd like that.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 23-Jun-09 17:43:28

A bit of a case of crossed wires re dosh has occurred I believe... involving a PR and some cross marketing budget. We thought we'd charged a nominal fee for the chat to cover our editorial costs but I now understand that Waitrose didn't know this [mysterious emoticon]. We were delighted to host the chat (though I think invited is an interesting way of putting it grin) - as said we thought it a very interesting subject and it's fabulous that MrSoph is going to take it further...

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 23-Jun-09 17:44:17

ps, as you can see we've never been very good with money blush.

squeaver Tue 23-Jun-09 18:52:39

Wow! Respect to Waitrose. Very impressive.

sophable Tue 23-Jun-09 21:39:17
SomeGuy Wed 24-Jun-09 00:40:29

I was a bit confused, in Waitrose yesterday, as to why the sardines they were selling were still slightly frozen. Turns out they are labelled 'previously frozen'

Lots of 'fresh' fish on the fish counters in the supermarkets is just expensive defrosted frozen fish. I guess we should just buy frozen fish and defrost ourselves. Would be much fresher than paying more money for frozen fish that's been hanging round in the supermarket.

Is there any point in 'fresh' fish from supermarkets at all?

SomeGuy Wed 24-Jun-09 00:48:40

What's the issue with farmed tropical prawns BTW?

MrSophable Wed 24-Jun-09 11:21:25

Someguy- farmed tropical prawns raise a number of health, environmental and social issues.

-they are often built at the expense of mangroves which are cleared to provide coastal space for the farms. Since mangroves are important nursery areas for juvenile fish this has a dramatic affect on local fisheries. mangroves incidentally also protect from tidal waves- in areas of heavy prawn farming the tsunami impact was far far worse.

-prawn farms are hotbeds of nasty diseases and have to be constantly treated with anti bitoics and other nasty chemicals or the prawns all die. prawns are often treated with other chemicals at harvest time to make them appear more palatable. many of these are carcinogenic.

-all those chemicals and antibiotics are then flushed through into the local environment with predictably disastrous results

-many prawn farms are owned by big business, or utterly dependent on big corporations for food and treatments. they employ less people, at low wages, than the fisheries they destroy. they poison local water supplies and damamge farm land. the effects of the chemical treatments on local human population in parts of asia have been dramatic.

Prawns raised organically in closed containment systems are significantly better but it seems that most people who have visited and smelt a prawn farm lose their appetite for tropical farmed prawns.
Trap caught scottish langoustines are much better- an MSC certified fishery exists in Torridon for instance.

MrSophable Wed 24-Jun-09 11:21:25

Someguy- farmed tropical prawns raise a number of health, environmental and social issues.

-they are often built at the expense of mangroves which are cleared to provide coastal space for the farms. Since mangroves are important nursery areas for juvenile fish this has a dramatic affect on local fisheries. mangroves incidentally also protect from tidal waves- in areas of heavy prawn farming the tsunami impact was far far worse.

-prawn farms are hotbeds of nasty diseases and have to be constantly treated with anti bitoics and other nasty chemicals or the prawns all die. prawns are often treated with other chemicals at harvest time to make them appear more palatable. many of these are carcinogenic.

-all those chemicals and antibiotics are then flushed through into the local environment with predictably disastrous results

-many prawn farms are owned by big business, or utterly dependent on big corporations for food and treatments. they employ less people, at low wages, than the fisheries they destroy. they poison local water supplies and damamge farm land. the effects of the chemical treatments on local human population in parts of asia have been dramatic.

Prawns raised organically in closed containment systems are significantly better but it seems that most people who have visited and smelt a prawn farm lose their appetite for tropical farmed prawns.
Trap caught scottish langoustines are much better- an MSC certified fishery exists in Torridon for instance.

Bramshott Wed 24-Jun-09 11:54:51

Almost all fish on the fresh fish counter has been previously frozen - we make a point of asking as we often want to refreeze it at home, and most of the time there is only 1 or 2 which haven't been frozen already (this is Waitrose).

SomeGuy Wed 24-Jun-09 12:04:22


I don't think I've ever seen any organic prawns.

Here's an article about it www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/sep/21/fooddrinks.food

I think we pay about £10/kg for king prawns.

I don't particularly have an objection the labour practices, I've lived in prawn farming countries and the alternative to working in somewhere like that tends to be starvation, it's quite hard to be precious about working conditions when there are no other employment opportunities.

Not too sure about the chemicals though. It's hard to find any facts on this or on how much testing is done and what the regulations are in individual countries.

It suggests here to buy cold-water prawns:

www.guardian.co.uk/news/2003/jun/19/food.fishing or Madagascan ones. Not sure ho up-to-date that is though.

SomeGuy Wed 24-Jun-09 12:06:16

Why not just buy frozen fish then? More convenient and fresher.

TheUnstrungHarp Wed 24-Jun-09 21:16:13

Mr Sophable - do you know much about trout farms?

MrSophable Wed 24-Jun-09 23:46:09

someguy- the thing about prawn farming is its generally not sustainable , earns a pittance for a very small labour force, often in grim and downright dangerous conditions....i know the alternative for the individual prawn feeder might be no job at all, but if the farm is destroying the livelihood of hundreds of local fishermen, and in a year or two will be wiped out by a disease and leave the few employees worse off than before I don't see it as any sort of benefit.

there are msc certified cold water prawns/langoustines. trap caught is best- trawled prawns have a horrendously high bycatch.

sophable Wed 24-Jun-09 23:47:19

trout farms are the devil's work but he'll tell you about it tomorrow cause he is coming to bed now aren't you darling?

MrSophable Wed 24-Jun-09 23:49:14

Unstrungharp- what i know about trout farms is that (for brown and rainbows at least)they suffer from many of the problems salmon farms raise but they can -and often are- be closed containment systems so they don't have the massive environmental impact salmon farms cited in sea lochs and fjords do. other problems persist..and in my humble opinion the product is not that great on the whole.

farmed sea trout is just as problematic as farmed salmon.

MrSophable Wed 24-Jun-09 23:49:37


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