FAQs - fish

Why are Riverford selling fish?


Our customers have been asking us to sell fish for a very long time. For us to do so, we had to be as confident in the sustainability and ethics behind it as we are about our organic veg and meat. It’s a complex issue as there are many different concepts of what is ‘sustainable’ when it comes to fish. After months of research and consulting fishermen, research bodies and industry experts, we feel we’ve come up with a robust model that supports small scale fishermen, protects the environment and provides you with great tasting, British-caught fish.


What makes Riverford fish different?


As with our veg, fruit and meat, you can enjoy fish as part of your recipe box from Riverford in the knowledge that it has been ethically sourced; protecting the environment, supporting small scale fishermen and providing great tasting, locally caught food. We’ve done the legwork for you.


Who are the Riverford fishermen?


Graeme Searle is our main fisherman. He is a static net gill-netter working out of Plymouth and goes out at sea with two other fishermen on board his modest boat. Graeme supplies to Sole of Discretion which is a Community Interest Company owned by the fishermen themselves; profits are ploughed back into the fishing community.


Why do we freeze our fish?


Your fish will arrive defrosted and chilled. It is iced at sea, then blast frozen within 24 hours. Paradoxically, freezing the fish ensures it is fresher at the point of eating; fish from industrial scale boats may have a much longer journey before it is frozen. Freezing the fish enables us to take the whole catch and allows us to balance supply and demand (eg. you can still get fish if the boats can’t get out in rough weather). In our blind taste tests we found no impact from freezing on flavour or texture, so you can expect fish that tastes as good as our meat and veg. (Please note that as the fish has been frozen you cannot refreeze it at home).


Why isn’t your fish organic?


Wild-caught fish cannot be certified as organic, as the conditions under which it has grown cannot be controlled. As such the only certified organic fish is farmed fish, which is reared in enclosed environments.


Is fish seasonal like fruit and veg?


Sometimes, yes. Different fish species have different breeding and migration patterns, and as we only ever work with known day boats working in a specific location, certain species of fish just won’t be there all the time.


Why is fish only in your recipe boxes and not in your main range?


As this is a new supply system that we have developed with our fishermen, we wanted to do a soft launch to test the water, and allow manageable, sustainable growth in the business model. We plan to introduce fish to our main range once we have ironed out any unforeseen issues.


Why don’t you just sell Marine Stewardship Certified fish?


The MSC is an excellent global standard, designed to mitigate the environmental impact of mainly industrial trawlers. Our standards will never be set below that of the MSC, but theirs only address environmental impact; our own code of conduct relates to the quality of the catch, as we insist our fish is iced at sea, handled carefully and frozen within 24 hours of landing. In addition, the MSC industrial boats are generally more carbon intensive; our static-net fishermen use relatively less fuel per kilo of fish than trawl-caught fish.


How do you avoid catching fish that have not had a chance to breed?


We work with fishermen that use a large mesh size, allowing smaller fish to swim through. In the case of the gill nets, the larger fish bounce off as their heads are too big and their gills won’t get caught. This helps to keep a healthy population of bigger fish around which tend to be the better breeders.


Do your fishermen throw fish away?


Our fishers never ‘high grade’ (that is discard a fish load for a higher value catch; a practice common with industrial trawlers) and are bound by our code of conduct to land all their catch, providing they are not out of fishing quota (a limit set on all boats as to how much they can catch of each species).