Tom Hunt

In conversation with Tom Hunt on sustainable seafood

4 minute read

Evie Martin

17 Nov 2021

We spoke with eco-chef, food writer and sustainability consultant, Tom Hunt, about his views on sustainable seafood, and what businesses and chefs can do to make swaps in their own kitchens

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Credit: Nenad Obradovic

What does "sustainable seafood" mean to you?

Food sustainability demonstrates our food’s connectivity to people and planet.

As my response to the climate crisis I’ve created a food sustainability philosophy called Root to Fruit Eating. It’s a value based approach that can be applied to both the home or industrial kitchen.

Root to Fruit Eating has three key principles:

  • Eat for pleasure
  • Eat whole foods
  • Eat the best food you can

The framework of the Root to Fruit philosophy is based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and on the extensive academic research published over the past few decades by organisations, academics and friends, such as the Marine Conservation Society.

When I’m asked what sustainable food means to you I like to refer to the The UN Food and Agricultural Organization definition because it covers the vast complexity of sustainability in a short paragraph. A sustainable diet is one that:

  • Has a low environmental impact
  • Contributes to a healthy life for present and future generations
  • Is protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems
  • Is culturally acceptable
  • Offers reliable access to affordable and nutritious food
  • Optimises natural and human resources

All these points clearly relate to the fishing industry. When I’m choosing sustainable seafood these are the main things I’m looking at:

Wild seafood:

  1. Should be from plentiful species
  2. caught using low impact fishing methods
  3. and fairly traded

Farmed seafood:

  1. Is best from inland fisheries
  2. That don’t impact the environment negativity
  3. And the fish must be fed using feed from sustainable fish stocks 
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As a restaurateur, why is it important to you to source sustainable ingredients?

I believe in an equitable food system that can deliver good food for all. Although an equitable food system already exists it doesn’t cater for the whole world and needs the support of every individual, government and business to transform our food system.

As citizens of our global and local communities we all have a responsibility to care for our bioregional home-lands and global ecosystems.

As food industry professionals this responsibility is multiplied by the number of mouths we feed, which is likely in the thousands if not millions. The ingredients we source can benefit or damage the food-web we build around our business.

We know that you have used the Good Fish Guide for some time, why do you think it’s important to do so?

I think it’s really important to avoid grey-areas when sourcing sustainably. There’s a lot of false and miss-leading information in the food industry, so it's really important to find evidence-based guidance and also to communicate your green policies to your customers.

I’ve used The Good Fish Guide to help my businesses procure fish for the last 10 years. It’s the most comprehensive and unbiased science-led guide to buying sustainable fish out there. It states clearly which fish are the best sustainable choice and which fish to avoid with an easy to understand traffic light system.

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Do you see any other benefits to businesses when they source sustainable seafood?

Implementing a comprehensive sustainable sourcing policy, brings kudos and authenticity to your business. Communicating it allows your business to practice transparency, building trust with your customers.

Alternative fish species like hake, coley and mackerel are often the most economical sustainable options, saving money.

If you communicate your values properly you can adjust portion size or charge appropriately for sustainably sourced fish when it is more expensive.

Better sustainable policies help with staff retention, it helps them feel part of the solution and gives meaning to the restaurant and team as a whole.

We know it’s something that you have always been passionate about, but how easy is it to change your sourcing to be more sustainable?

Improving sustainability takes a lot of commitment and dedication, however it's an enjoyable and rewarding process.

It’s much easier to make environmental decisions as a business than as an individual. We are emotional beings, who make emotional decisions. As a business you have resources and a team of professionals to help create rules and implement them.

Policing your green policy is important once it is implemented to uphold your standards.

Chef’s are a thrifty and inventive bunch. Any good chef should be able to create a profitable dish from sustainable produce. The Good Fish Guide gives your business the tool kit to do it.

fishing boats

Credit: Jack Clarke

What other barriers do you think businesses might face when making changes to their seafood sourcing, and what piece of advice would you give to someone looking to make changes?

Navigating fish species mixed ratings varying from best choice to fish to avoid can be tricky. Do the research and check the location and catch method tied to the rating.

The best advice I can give is that you are not alone, using the GFG work closely with your fish wholesaler to achieve a sustainable menu. Any supplier worthy of your business will get involved and help you out.

Buying fish from day boats can be a good way to improve your sustainability and make the transition to sustainable fish more manageable, improving traceability.

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We loved speaking to Tom about his views on sourcing seafood in an environmentally responsible way.

We have been working to create a brand new arm of the Good Fish Guide, designed especially for businesses.

The Good Fish Guide for Business allows businesses, chefs, or anyone working in the seafood supply chain, to find out which fish or shellfish are most environmentally responsible and take steps towards better sourcing. ******SIGN UP HERE********