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Jan van As casts its nets into the future

sustainable fishing

Fresh fish trader Jan van As casts its nets into the future!

The story of sustainable Northsea fishing from shiny gills to slippery tail!

Where did all our fish go?

There was a time in the not so distant past when the fish in our oceans seemed in-exhaustable. The explorer Cabot said in the 1850’s that North Atlantic cod were so plentiful, you could walk across the backs of them or simply lower a bucket into the ocean to catch them. (Richer, 2009)

It’s a shame then that fishing, the gift that kept on giving, has like so many of the finite resources on our planet reached its limit. Consider that 50% of the worlds fish is caught by 1% of the worlds fishing boats. Massive trawlers, some with nets so wide that they can fit 37 Boeing 747’s inside them catch thousands of fish at one time and anything else that is unlucky enough to swim into their nets including birds, seaturtles, sharks and any unwanted or unsaleable fish. (Murray, 2009 ) So called..by-catch.

Cabot’s once celebrated cod and its brothers salmon, tuna and seabass hold the dubious honor of being the most fished species in the sea, their numbers reduced to 30% of their former population. (Greenberg, 2011) Meanwhile the hunt for the last bluefin tuna, which can command astronomical prices in the wet markets of Tokyo and Hong Kong (Attenborough, 2012 ) seems to be in full force with no thought to what the reprecussions may be, moral or otherwise. It seems we have simply become too good at high volume fishing for stocks to replenish themselves and something has to be done.

Alas, our technology has marched ahead of our spiritual and social evolution, making us, frankly, a dangerous people. Steven M Green

Is there a Future for Fishing?

You might say then “Hey, Just stop eating fish” but curing overfishing by not eating fish is like curing aids by promoting abstinence It uhhh…. just doesn’t work. Consider also that 1.5 billion people rely on fish for their primary source of protein (Sharpless, 2013) and that its is often the sole source of income for many communities. Oh, and did I mention, its delicious!

Thankfully with the right mind-set, ethics and passion for your products its not too late to be part of the solution. Last week I visited Jan van As. Together with their partners, they are the key players in the Amsterdam HORECA scene bringing this spirit and much needed revolution to fishing practices every day.

Fresh fish trader Jan van As is a third generation fish supplier with a clear vision. Delivering handpicked, sustainable, top-quality fish products to the best in the business. Their philosophy on the future of sustainable fishing goes beyond convention and half measures, relying on the ideology of building up long term relationships with fishermen and the sea itself.

So lets explore the future of fishing. How can we do it right from now on so that your grandchild doesn’t ask you “where did all our fish go?”

Seasonal is Sustainable

By this we mean catching fish that are in season and not endangered. Resident expert Jan Doorn explains. He is wearing blue gloves and a chefs apron. Fish knife in hand, he filets a halibot in a matter of seconds while casually chatting with us.

“When fish are full of eggs and you catch them, the fillets are very thin because the belly is full of eggs.” Catch them when they are large, strong and not spawning and they will come back every year. You also get higher quality so its always important to catch fish in season.”

Jan van As offers a handy tool on their website for checking which fish are in season, including a fish calender and advice for fish to enjoy or avoid in each month.

Eating less popular but often equally delicious kinds of fish is also a way to enjoy fish without harming marine life. (MSC, 2016) There are many underappreciated fish in the North Sea that Jan van As is promoting to their clients and even creating delicious recipes for in their professional demo kitchen. These are Tong, Schol, Mackreel, Griet, Schar, Mul and Poon. Diversifying the range of the fish eaten is a great step towards re-populating overfished species. (Seaver, 2015) So lets broaden our horizons and search for recipes and knowledge about lesser know species.

Teach a man to fish

Low volume, highly selective and labor intensive fishing methods usually offer the highest quality and most sustainable product. These techniques include pole & line, squid jigging, handline, fishfarming on land and cast net fishing to name a few. (McGowan, 2015)

One of my colleagues asked our company guide Sander Molenaar. “If tuna is unsustainable why do you offer it to your customers”? Often understanding seasonality, yields and regulations in fishing areas is key. The next step is to know which techniques are used by your suppliers and the interest they have in sustainability. Sander responded; “ Well tuna isn’t all unsustainable, we only offer tuna that has been pole and line fished, the most sustainable fishing method out there, next to that we only offer yellowfin tuna not bluefin which is endangered.”

Another member of our group said “Wow that must take a lot of manpower” I thought, he’s right! Maybe that’s just the point. These labor intensive sustainable fishing practices aren’t just better for the fish or the consumer or the 5 star hotels and Michelin restaurants looking for top quality. It’s better for the fishermen too! They can work with more men for more years and have the chance to pass on these sustainable techniques to the next generation.

This is a world where jobs are being automated and population growth is increasing at breakneck speed (Taggart, 2016) Going back to basics in fishing can provide job security for fishermen and their families. It can also keep fish coming back year after year for our children and granchildren to enjoy.

Are you buying sustainable fish? Look for these certification logos offered by Jan van As partners and join the change today!

V&Smsc ascGFF

For more information contact Jan van As directly at vishandel@janvanas.nl.

Author available for comment at Chase Groot student on Hotel School the Hague

Date: 23rd of May 2016
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Issued By: Hotel School the Hague & Versvishandel Jan van As