IN RECENT years, mackerel has been celebrated by chefs and conservationists as healthy, cheap, sustainable and locally caught – the way out of our addiction to cod. We took to it with gusto and before we know it the species has been downgraded from the Marine Conservation Society’s “Good to Eat” list.
If you wish to serve mackerel, try to ensure the mackerel you buy is as sustainable as possible. The advice is now to only source fish caught locally using traditional methods including handlines, ringnets and drift nets, and from suppliers who are signatories to the principles of the Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance. Caterers can also consider using herring or sardines in place of mackerel.
The best advice is for buyers to ask questions about all fish that they buy – where and how it was caught, and whether it is from a sustainably managed fishery. Good suppliers should be able to answer and provide relevant information. If they can’t, change to another supplier who can.
It is important that we don’t all sigh, put it down to experience and go back to the fish fingers. The mackerel experience has started the process of reconnecting us with our fish, we’ve tried and learned to love a fish from outside the “big four” of cod, salmon, prawns and tuna and we’ve started to embrace the idea that sustainable fish is good to eat. If anything, this latest development tells us that we need to be even more flexible, even more adventurous and even more connected with our own locally caught fish and seafood.
Paul Cox is director of conservation and communication at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth