Introducing an ethical fishmonger – the Sole of Discretion

15 December 2015 - 4:51pm -- Gerry Danby
Sole of Discretion

The Sole of Discretion will create a new supply chain which fairly rewards responsible fishers. Consumers will get fresh, high quality fish despatched or frozen within hours of a catch being landed. Sole of Discretion will put provenance, quality and fairness at the heart of its business model.

Yes, this is a crowdfunding project, but if you care about food and have a conscience it is one you must seriously consider!

The Sole of Discretion is an ethical fishmonger and a social enterprise owned by the local fishing community. It aims to create a stable market and distribution system for a network of small-scale fishers around the UK. Sole of Discretion will start in Plymouth where:

  • Fishers will get fair prices, boost the local economy and be rewarded for fishing with environmental sensitivity.
  • Customers will get honestly priced, traceable, high quality fish direct to their home using one of the UK’s largest organic veg box schemes.
  • The business will support scientific research to help minimise the impact of fishing on the marine environment.

The project is spearheaded by Caroline Bennett who opened Britain’s first rotating sushi restaurant in London in 1994. Caroline became increasingly concerned about the state of our fish stocks when she came across the plight of the blue fin tuna back in 1997. Since then she has pioneered putting ethically sourced fish on restaurant menus and the political agenda.


Supermarket cod, haddock and plaice cost £15 and more a kilo, yet UK fishers receive only £1.20 to 2.40 a kilo. Making a living when faced with these economics is not sustainable so it is no surprise that the number of fishers has fallen from over 20,000 in 1996 to an estimated 11,845 in 2014* and many fishers are on the point of giving up. The average age of a fisher is in the mid-50s so a new generation need to be attracted to fishing otherwise valuable skills may be lost forever. 

Buying fish, from a consumer perspective, is also one of the least transparent food purchases you are likely to make. Do you wonder where fish on local restaurant menus is sourced? How old it is by the time it reaches your plate? How do you know it has been caught without damage to the marine environment?

There are lots of good fishers who look after the quality of their catch and fish with environmental sensitivity, but they sell in the same price-driven market as everyone else. The mainstream supply chain slows down the delivery of fish and does not keep track of catches. The Marine Stewardship Council and others have made significant progress in recent years but still few fishmongers can tell you where and when the fish was landed.

Last but not least, the Sole of Discretion will put money into research conducted in conjunction with Exeter University's marine biology department. The research will help fishers' boats operate in even more environmentally sustainable ways, raise the quality of fish and help others working on similar issues.

What’s not to like? You have until 8 January 2016 to dig deep and support this game-changing project!


*Marine Management Organisation, UK Sea Fisheries Statistics 2014, National Statistics, 2015


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