The owner of the north east’s Independent Fish & Chip Shop of the Year 2012 returned inspired this month after a three day fact-finding expedition to Norway, where he saw first-hand the importance of sustainable fishing.
Stuart Fusco, (35), joined nine other award winning fish and chip shop owners from across the UK as he embarked on a trip that took him from Whitby to Oslo, and then further north still to Ålesund, the capital of the Norwegian white fish industry.
The trip was organised by Seafish, the authority on seafood, and the Norwegian Seafood Export Council, in advance of the Grand Final of the National Fish & Chip Awards 2012 in London on 17 January 2012. At the awards Stuart will discover if he has won the national title of Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year 2012.
Norway was chosen as the finalists’ destination as it is viewed as an industry leader in fishing - in 1987 the country introduced its No Discard policy as part of a larger, comprehensive package of policies to limit the problem of boats and trawlers discarding fish. It has since seen cod and haddock stocks in its Barents Sea reach levels not seen since the end of World War 2.
In areas without such a ‘no discard’ policy, including across European seas, fish can be discarded back into the sea when boats and trawlers go over their imposed quotas or catch fish that are too small for sale. This practice results in both a waste of food and income; while it also makes the management of fish levels more difficult.
Stuart saw the benefits of this first hand when he and the other shop owners were invited on board the trawler Ramoen, where they were shown how the frozen-at-sea cod and haddock fillets used by many shops in the UK are caught, processed and frozen within five hours of leaving the water from seas whose fish stocks are carefully monitored.
It wasn’t all work though for Stuart and the group, as he said: “The trip was a great chance to meet my peers from across the UK on a social level. Everyone was very well behaved though, probably because the exchange rate between the pound and the Norwegian Krone meant that a local lager cost £8!”
Reflecting on his award win, he added: “It’s still sinking in really. But it has been an incredible few months. We’re still getting cards in from well-wishers. The local support for the shop has always been great and I hope this award gives the whole town something to be proud of.”