Participants vying for the Billingsgate Award included:
- Dawn Purchase, Senior Aquaculture Officer at the Marine Conservation Society who championed the sustainable production and versatility of Shetland rope grown blue mussels;
- Lawrie Stove, Sales Manager at Loch Duart explained how lean, fit sustainable Loch Duart salmon is produced in small quantities to high standards;
- Tristan Hugh-Jones explained the unique environment under which Loch Ryan Oysters grow;
- Emily Howgate, Director at the International Pole and Line Foundation explained the sustainability credentials of line caught tuna from the Maldives;
- Shield Foods (UK) Ltd, with a Norwegian fisherman and local processor, then took the stage to promote the Norwegian King Crab;
- and finally Klaas Jan Meereeuw from Seafood Connections and Esther Luiten from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) spoke about pangasius, outlining the steps the Vietnamese industry has taken to gain accreditation.
Around 80 trade professionals – from chefs and buyers, to technical managers and fishmongers – listened to the lively presentations and had the opportunity to taste all the seafood over a brunch and lunch, before casting their vote on which product should win.
“This was the closest vote we have ever had in the four year that this event has been running,” said Libby Woodhatch, Head of Advocacy at Seafish, who chaired the event.
“Emily Howgate, on behalf of the International Pole and Line Foundation effectively demonstrated the traditional ‘one hook, one man, one pole’ line caught tuna fishery, and how it supports local communities and safeguards the health of our seas. Shield Foods (UK) Ltd, who are based in London, had brought along a fisherman and a local processor from the remote town of Varanger where the Norwegian King Crabs are caught and processed, to talk about their ‘friendly catch’ of Norwegian King Crab.”
“It was a difficult decision for the audience. What this event really demonstrates is both the sustainability credentials, and the diversity of the seafood that is available to UK consumers. The hopeful candidates today were split between home-grown products and imported products, and between farmed and wild caught,” said Libby.
Adam Whittle, from the Billingsgate Seafood Training School, who organised the event, explained how this event reinvigorates their programme and curriculum for the coming year.
“We will be championing these species during the following year, through our work with young people. In particular we are working with trainee chefs and the finalists for the Trainee Chef of the Year competition, which will be held in March 2014, will be asked to create recipes using these species.”