Loren Hiller, MSC – Full Transcript

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Loren Hiller MSC Fish & Chips

Stelios: Hey everyone, welcome to Episode Seven. It does feel like these are going a little bit too fast, but hey, you know, it’s all good. We’re getting on really well. So, episode seven is with Loren Hiller, and she’s the Commercial Officer at the Marine Stewardship Council. We’re just going to refer to it as MSC moving forward because it’s too much to say all the time. We had a really good conversation about the mission of the MSC.

Loren was really open, and nothing was off-limits, but it’s worth noting that if the question was out of her purview, or her role, or not the MSCs role, then she just answered it in a personal capacity, and I think that was really good of her because she didn’t want to not answer questions. So I give a lot of credit there.

As a point of reference, this was recorded the day before the Fish and Chip Awards and would like to say a big well done to Tim & Kelly Barnes on winning the Independent Fish & Chips for the Year Award by Seafish.They’re fantastic people and run a great business. I have nothing but respect and admiration for them. We hope you enjoy this episode and, like Loren said, if you have any questions reach out to her anytime. I, for one, would love to hear all of your opinions on our conversation.

– Music Introduction –

Stelios: Thanks for your time today, Loren.

Loren: Thanks for having me and thanks for coming down to MSC. It’s great to have you.

Stelios: No, it’s, it’s great to be here ’cause, uh, I love London.

Loren: The good city.

Stelios: Yeah, it, well… the best.

Loren: It is the best, the best in the world. Yeah.

Stelios: And obviously we’re here for the Fish & Chip Awards tomorrow. So it just make complete sense.

Loren: Yes, very good timing.

Stelios: Yeah, definitely. And, well, I think we’ve been probably trying to do this for, like, two months we’ve tried, I think, give or take?

Loren: No, because we met a while back now.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: I think it was sort of summertime. I remember it being quite warm. Was it warm or… it was slightly warm.

Stelios: Oh. Was it the Norway Day thing?

Loren: It was September. It was our Sustainable Friday with Millers Fish & Chips.

Stelios: Yes, it. Yeah.

Loren: So that was a while back now. I think that was September. So we’ve had this in the pipeline for a while now, which, you know, I’ve been waiting. I’ve been counting down the days till I’ve been on this podcast.

Stelios: Oh, I’m sure, yeah, I’m sure you just couldn’t sleep.

Loren: I know, I couldn’t.

Stelios: So one thing I wanted to get this started, I do this with everyone. So, it was just like, tell us a little bit about how you got here, like how you got to MSC, your journey?

Loren: Yeah, so, I think, I can’t remember where it all started. I mean, I grew up in South London, you know, nowhere near the sea. I never really had any family who spent time near the sea, so I can’t claim I’ve got that sort of story. But when I was younger, I just was fascinated by the ocean, science, biology, and I knew from a very young age that I wanted to do something marine-y, marine biology, and I had that, you know, in my sights for a long time. So you know, my mom’s a PE teacher and my sister’s a physio and everyone said to me, oh, you gonna be a coach or a sports teacher. I was like most definitely not.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can run up and down a lacrosse pitch if I wanted to, but I always wanted to be… do something science-y, and so I went to University, University of Portsmouth in 2012, and did marine biology and graduated in 2015. And I previously worked for a marine technology company, but I always have MSC in my sights. I’ve always been passionate about what they do and what they stand for. So now I’ve been working for the MSC for about a year and a half now, and I really enjoy it. Work with some very like-minded people who really do care. So it’s, it’s a really nice environment to work in.

Stelios: Okay, so now you’ve got us to that point. Tell us, just, the mission. What’s the mission that you know, the mission of MSC.

Loren: So, I mean, we want the world’s oceans teeming with life and seafood supply safeguarded for this and future generations, so through our fishery standard and through our Chain of Custody standard, we want to drive that change. We want to see more sustainable seafood in the market, in restaurants, in supermarkets, and we want to see fishermen and fisherwomen changing the way they fish so that they can fish sustainably and fish forever as well because it is people’s livelihoods at the end of the day. That’s what we, we ultimately care about, and we all, we’re all very passionate about, you know, following our mission and our vision.

Stelios: You’ve done this before, haven’t you?

Loren: No. Maybe.

Stelios: I’ve rang around a little bit ’cause I know a little bit about what MCS is.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And I believe in the mission, there’s no doubt.

Loren: Yeah

Stelios: And I think everyone that I spoke to really does believe in the mission and I think they love it and, you know, they love what you’re doing, and I think that it’s good for me to learn a little bit about this side of it, really.

Loren: Yeah, so let me ask you a question.

Stelios: Oh, okay.

Loren: How much do you know about the MSC? I mean what do you think the blue label stands for? I mean, you’re kind of in the industry already.

Stelios: Okay, so, well, I know that for me, if we’re talking about retail, when I see the blue label…

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: …I don’t see that as a mark of quality. I see it as a mark of sustainability.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: That’s probably been something that I’ve always found a bit contentious sometimes because I think that some people or some organisations try and pass it off as better quality…

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: …in terms of taste, flavour, texture and all that. Whereas I don’t strictly think that’s the case. And however, you know, if it’s more sustainable, then that’s always better.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: So yeah, so am I right to think that’s what it is?

Loren: Yes, so obviously, the blue label that you see, or maybe in a restaurant or, you know, on your fillets of cod in the supermarket, essentially mean that that fish has come from a sustainable fishery and is fully traceable, so you can trace it back to where it’s come from. So you’re right in saying that it’s all about sustainability. For some consumers, they just don’t know. They see that blue label and they think it means something good.

Stelios: Yes.

Loren: And so we’re on that journey now of educating consumers, you know, so they can see what it actually means because when you’re, you’re busy and you pop into a supermarket, ultimately you just want to get you dinner and go home. But if we could make it convenient for shoppers and consumers, or when they’re eating out, that this is a good thing. It means that, you know, my fish is sustainable, I’m doing the right thing. And that’s, that’s a dream, really.

Stelios: So, I know this doesn’t fall under your remit, but how do you stop people from pushing it from a quality point of view, as opposed to a sustainable point of view? Or even both? How do you do that?

Loren: Well, I think, ultimately, when you see that blue badge on, you know, on the packets or in the restaurants, it will say ‘certified sustainable seafood’, so… and on every packet of seafood, which has the label or in a menu where you see the label, there’s a link to our website. And so we encourage people to look at the website to see what it actually stands for. So that’s where people come into the website and say, okay, this isn’t about taste or quality, it’s about sustainable seafood.

Stelios: And do you think busy consumers do that?

Loren: I think people who care do. I think in the light of, you know, David Attenborough and the whole plastics in the ocean situation, that really brought to light that we’re in a bad way at the moment and I think people are starting to realise that they need to make change.

Stelios: So, I think we touched on this just before, your budget is… no, not your budget, your turnover as an NGO, is 19 million or something, give or take?

Loren: I think something around that, yeah.

Stelios: How do you manage? And the all the money doesn’t go to, obviously, promotion, obviously.

Loren: No.

Stelios: Yeah, how did you manage to deal with the fads? You know, ’cause people watch that plastic show, that David Attenborough show, was it Planet Earth or something?

Loren: Yeah, Blue Planet, or one of those.

Stelios: Yeah, Blue Planet, one of… and people get very, all up in it. Oh, my God, I can’t have plastic, plastic straws, da, da, da. And then, a month later, they’re onto something else. It’s…

Loren: Yes.

Stelios:  Veganuary for example..

Loren: It’s a trend, isn’t it?

Stelios: Whatever you call it, and it’s a trend. How do you as a, you know, broadly speaking, how do you deal with that at MSC?

Loren: So, as I mentioned earlier, we’re on a journey of educating consumers and the year before was our 20th anniversary, and since then, we’ve sort of changed the way we market ourselves to be a bit more consumer-friendly because if people think of the MSC they do think, oh, science-heavy, kind of boring. I mean, standards can be, don’t get me wrong, if you get into the depths of it, it could be very heavy.

And so what we do is they’re changing the way we look at how we ourselves, we’re working with brands, we’re working with retailers, and we do lots of consumer engagement campaigns as well. So, to change the perception of the MSC, and we also do a lot of market research as well, so every two years we do a big study to show us, you know, what do people think of the label and how their perceptions are changing. So year on year, we’re seeing higher recognition of the label, people actually understanding what it means, and from there, we can develop our messaging and create assets that, you know, I guess lure people in into what is sustainability and what is sustainable fish. So, that’s how we’re changing our way.

Stelios: ‘Cause ideally you want, you know, you want people to be thinking about sustainably source fish all the time.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Yeah, as opposed to, oh, you know, yeah, it’s good now, and you know, but I think we’ll get into a little bit down the line defining the word sustainability because I’ve got some questions about that as well. But I’ve done a little bit of research and, you know, not a lot. So, I found a quote from… I think I’ve sent you this as well.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Erin Priddle, MSC UK Programme Director. Is she in this building?

Loren: She’s not in the build… she… no.

Stelios: Oh my god, I’d just go and find her right now and say, like, yeah.

Loren: I would have called her up.

Stelios: So she says the report, this is the report she was talking about?

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Reflects the complex, often polarised views, around seafood certification. While some claim the bar is too low, others won’t want… that it is becoming too high, even for world-leading fisheries. This illustrates the challenge of a global standard. If the bar is raised too high, it risks prevented fisheries, such a small-scale and developing world fisheries from every region that bar.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: How do you… how do you, as a, as an NGO, how do you balance between that?

Loren: Right, so I’ve spoken to Erin about this after you sent me that quote, I wanted to get her opinion on it as well.

Stelios: Yeah. I think she was referring to MCS. I think, I think the article it was in reference to was MCS or something like that.

Loren: I think it was the the Environmental Audit Committee.

Stelios: Something like that.

Loren: Yeah, so, that was a report which we were one of the organisation’s, only, actually, the only NGO which was investigated in the Sustainable Seas report. And so what that quote essentially means is that some stakeholders don’t think that the MSC standard is actually high enough, and we should be aiming for even higher, for some sort of gold standard that is only attainable by, you know, maybe 1% of the fisheries. But those same people also say that the MSC acts as a barrier to small scale fisheries, but it is these precise fisheries that need a lower bar, so the entry to the programme is more attainable.

But it’s very difficult to, so, sort of find a medium of all these conflicting views and for the MSC to be all things to a fishery because it’s simply not possible. But what essentially the fishery standard does is offer a scoring system, which enables fisheries to enter the programme, and they can meet a minimum score and the with the minimum score, there’s sometimes conditions placed on the score, which means they need to make improvements over a certain time period.

So, at the moment, we think we have this right, but it’s important to remember that sustainable fisheries are on a journey, so fisheries do enter the programme, and they do need to make changes and make improvements and hopefully, you know, one step at a time, we’re trying to eradicate unsustainable fishing. So, that’s what, that’s what that quote means. I mean, it’s hard to please everyone.

Stelios: Yeah. No, of course.

Loren: We can’t be everything to everyone. And we regularly review our standards, we welcome input from stakeholders in industry, and we regularly review what we’re doing so we can be, you know, the best of its kind, which we currently are.

Stelios: Yeah, no, that’s really good. And so, couple of things. I know you can’t answer everything on behalf of MSC.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: I get that completely. So, you’re gonna have to jump into your personal opinions sometimes.

Loren: Yes, no worries.

Stelios: So… unless you want to jump out and get someone else to appear, but I’m guessing…

Loren: Who’s free?

Stelios: So, we touched on it just before, so some people would argue that legislation should push the standard.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Yeah, and you said that it’s not that easy?

Loren: Yeah. I think so. What is important to, you know, state is that we are an NGO. We aren’t run by the government or anything like that, so when we have done our latest consumer research, people do see us as like a government organisation…

Stelios: Okay.

Loren: …or with it, they think we’re related to the supermarkets, which isn’t the case, we’re a separate body. I think we do, when we review the standards, we do take into account your latest scientific evidence and things that are going on outside of our MSC bubble. So, that would be my opinion on that, and, like I said, we improve as much as we can. If someone, a stakeholder, thinks we’re not doing something right, then we’ll review it and see if we can put something in place.

Stelios: And I take it you guys are, as MSC, are, you know, putting recommendations forward to governments and so on?

Loren: Um…

Stelios: Or not really? Does it not work like that, or…?

Loren: Not really, I mean, they come to us for opinions and advice, because we are… we’re a market leader and we’re the only sort of standard of its kind, so they come… they know that a lot of fisheries, globally, do adhere to our standard, so I guess we could be looked at as sort of a, you know, a leader in that in that way.

Stelios: Yes. Okay, so moving on to plastics, and, again, you know, you mentioned it earlier, everyone’s sort of gone a little bit crazy over plastics.

Loren: Mm-hm.

Stelios: And it’s everyone’s fault clearly, you know.

Loren: Yeah, it’s one of yours, too.

Stelios: And so I read somewhere… actually I might have been told, that the majority of plastics in the sea come from two rivers in Asia.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: So, I saw that study as well. I didn’t realise that either. Obviously, it all gets washed in from somewhere, it goes down drains.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: It goes down the rivers. But yeah, so it says 90% of plastic comes from just ten rivers in the world.

Stelios: That’s bad. That’s…

Loren: Which is really scary, actually.

Stelios: Well, I think it also makes you think that, no matter how much the British people… ‘cause we always follow rules, we’re British, we follow all the rules. We recycle, we reuse, we do everything right.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: Generally. Actually, even if we try hard, it doesn’t matter because it still ended up in the sea, isn’t it?

Loren: Well, I think…

Stelios: To some degree, I think. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try. Yeah.

Loren: I know. So, you just mentioned that we recycle, we behave by the rules.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: I would put it as a sort of a, you know, 1-2-3, so reduce, reuse, recycle. So, I mean, recycling sounds great, and, don’t get me wrong, I’d rather chuck my bottle in a recycling bin, like a plastic bottle than, you know, into a river somewhere and ends up in the ocean. But first of all, as consumers, and we want to sort of live sustainably, we need to think about reducing.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: So, reducing the amount of material that we use, the plastic we buy, and then reuse that stuff. So, I’ve, you know, right, I’ve got my reusable bottle right here, I’ve got reusable coffee cup.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: But I’m really into that sort of thing. And then think about recycling there, because people don’t sort of underestimate how much money, energy, and time goes into recycling, you know, it’s all well and good, you know, putting your recycling out, and I think it’s a good idea, but the amount of work and energy that goes into that, people don’t really realise.

Stelios: I genuinely think that… I’m a strong supporter of doing things the right way, but I think the government and councils could really do a better job of disposing of these things.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And I think that they’re still well behind the curve. I think… they’ll get there, no doubt and there’s…

Loren: They have to.

Stelios: Yeah, but there’s lots of other things going off at the moment, we’ll let them off, but I think that, you know, one thing that really grinds my gears, and I’ll put a little bit here, actually, it’s about David Attenborough, but everyone sort of lost their self about, like, the plastic straws.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: And then they all move over to paper straws, and I’m convinced that you go for more paper straws because they go soggy and disgusting and I don’t like… just don’t give me a straw.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Quite frankly. I don’t want a straw. I don’t want a paper straw that’s lined with plastic.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: You know, and it goes soggy and it’s disgusting. And it costs probably triple the amount to move around anyway, which means… and I think this is the problem sometimes, in this country, maybe, that we jump on all of the bio fads, you know, like, so for example, everyone’s using biodegradable packaging that does not biodegrade.

Loren: Yes, ‘cause we wouldn’t know how to biodegrade it, or they don’t have the facilities to do so.

Stelios: Yeah, exactly.

Loren: But, I mean, unfortunately, consumers, you know, they see it that, oh great I’m doing the right thing, but they’re not. And, ultimately, you just mentioned it there, I think it does need to come from, from top-down.

Stelios: Mm, it has to be, yeah. It has to be.

Loren: So, the government need to bring in things because, if you walk into a supermarket right now, and you want to do, you know, a few day shop or a weekly shop, there is not… you will ultimately have, always have plastic in your trolley, and, I use this example because it really annoys me. I like it as a suede on a Sunday as one of my vegetables. It is like the hardest vegetable and it comes in plastic packaging.

Stelios: What’s the point? Yeah.

Loren: It doesn’t need to, and it’s just common sense as well.

Stelios: You can drop that thing in a puddle, and nothing would happen.

Loren: And I feel really, really bad for people who are trying to do the right thing when they’re swamped by, you know, all these… you know, sustainability is a bit of a buzzword, but what does it mean? People don’t actually know what it means, so I feel sorry for people trying to do the right thing, and it’s biodegradable, it does this, and it does that. But what does it do?

Stelios: I actually think that half the problem is, and this is gonna sound so cruel, but if you’re unsure, revert back to common sense.

Loren: Yes, well…

Stelios: Yeah, and I think, you know, and I just think it makes sense. You know what, why should I have plastic bottles of water when I can have a water filter next to a tap? Why should I buy a peeled orange that’s in plastic casing, when I can just have an orange with normal skin on and peel it? So, you know, just revert back to common sense.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And I think, you know, I think I saw, I saw someone selling one banana in the plastic thing.

Loren: Oh.

Stelios: Well, what’s the banana covered in?

Loren: You see that on social media, don’t you? Like, these things are…

Stelios: Yeah. I don’t know how true those are sometimes. But it does make you wonder sometimes, like, you know, use your common sense.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: But we’ve also got be careful sometimes because you see massive extremes. So you see, like, people go into a supermarket, unloading all of their shopping, taking off all the plastic, and throwing it on the floor in the supermarket. Well, that wasn’t good either.

Loren: Yes. I know, I mean, fair enough.

Stelios: I know they’re trying to prove a point, but…

Loren: I know, but ultimately, I think it needs to come top-down because…

Stelios: I agree.

Loren: …we can sometimes be very powerless. We can make… we know we can go to a farmer’s market or we can do other things. We can buy things in bulk, rather than individual miny things, for example, but ultimately, if we want to make change, it needs to come top-down, otherwise…

Stelios: Yeah. It’s not gonna happen.

Loren: How… we can’t… we’re sometimes powerless, I think.

Stelios: Yeah, well, you need numbers, and if one person decides to, you know, make a change, well, well done, mate, but…

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: But yeah, if ten do it, you got a better chance.

Loren: And you don’t… we don’t want to get to the point where we’re too late as well, which, I think…

Stelios: Mm, I think everyone’s too late.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: Yeah, and I think, you know, when you walk around a food exhibitions, and you have to ask them, like three or four times, is this combustible? Yes, of course it is. No, no, no. Is it compostable? Like, can I put it in my green bin? Oh, no, no, you can’t do that. And you’re like, oh okay, then, so what do I do with it? And they’re like… you know, and I don’t if you heard the Andrew Crook podcast and, and I said to a friend of mine who’s put a biodegradable fish and chip tray in his garden, it’s been there six years and it’s still there. I spoke to him last week, it’s still there. Yeah. You know, it’s just how… what the hell like? So, I think that we all jump… we all… a lot of people moved over to this packaging for a good reason, but we are, generally, being duped by people.

Loren: Yeah, and it was, like I said, it’s a trend as well.

Stelios: Yeah, it’s a trend.

Loren: They think, oh, they’re doing biodegradable cups, I should do that, too. But people don’t really look into it, you know, for example, this is a bit of an off-piece story. My sister got a dog recently, and I was like, all right, Amy, you need to get, you know, sustainable pet food. What about biodegradable doggie bags, you know, when you’re out and about with the dog. And I had a look into it, and you know, these… you can get biodegradable, compostable, but unless you have the right facilities, then where does it go? It just ends up in the bin or it just ends up in your garden or down the drain.

Stelios: Mm, I’m guessing dog poo is pretty acidic, so I’d get rid of that anyway, to be honest. But yeah, no, no, you’re right, it is so true, like, we have not got those facilities. So, all the trends are there, but we’ve just not got the facilities.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Yeah, and then you read an article that actually says polystyrene is probably the best packaging in terms of recycling because you can wash it, squash it down, get it flaked up, and it works again. You’re like, oh, great, we’re going full circle. So, I don’t like polystyrene, personally, but, you know, it’s just got that kebab shop image, hasn’t it?

Loren: And what about your batters? What sort of packaging are they in? And how are you, sort of… have you changed your ways?

Stelios: No, we didn’t have to. So, when we saw some in the first place, we just did it right the first time. And you know, that just took a lot of research. So, we have paper bags from recycled sources, and they’ve been recleaned and reused, and they’re fully recyclable again. So we don’t have plastic lining, so they can just get recycled. Roll it up, put it in the paper bin.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: So yeah, our plastic tubs that we use are reusable, and they’re from recycled sources, and they’re recyclable. So, you know, we’re always constantly looking at that. It never stops, like, you know, and, you know, we did some research recently and some customers were like, we love the plastic tubs because we reuse them so many times, like, you know, they’re white, originally, and you go to some shops, and they’re literally, they’ve been battered and bruised, and they just keep using them. They’re clean. Some people use them to put potatoes in, or whatever it may be. So, I think it’s just getting that right message out there.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: You know, and, again, we could have moved over to, let’s say… what’s, you know, in commerce, a more biodegradable packaging. But you know what? I don’t think it would have been that biodegradable because, again, who gets rid of it, you know? And so it just throws in more headache, really. So, we just tried to keep it simple.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And we’re always reviewing these options, you know, some customers that listen to this will know, because I’ll text them and say, look, you know, what do you think? You know, and we’ll run through it. So, I think one thing that we probably want to do at some point is move away from black plastic, ‘cause we know that that’s probably the worst plastic.

Loren: And I think, you know, I’ve been speaking to suppliers, they’re trying to get away from that as well. I didn’t realise how bad it was.

Stelios: No, ‘cause black plastic, apparently, is just all the crap of what’ left from all the other ones that have just been cleaned, but at least, again, goes back to the fact that everything’s being reused. You know, all of our t… I’m almost putting money on the fact that all of our tubs are getting reused, all of them. Like, I’d say, only a small amount of people are putting them in the bin. And then, even then, they’re putting them to one side and they’re getting recycled.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: But I know one customer texted me today, he goes I can’t use them anymore, so I put a sign up in the shop. I’ve got too many, he says. So I put a sign up in the shop, and then gardeners took them to allotments and are reusing them. So there’s, you know, you know, they’re getting used and I think that’s the really interesting thing, is that, you know, I remember, you know, when I was younger, growing up in Cyprus, and then… well, I did a year over there, and my grandparents, they used to use all the plastic buckets to put plants in.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Well, nowadays we don’t because everyone’s so quick to go get nice plant pots.

Loren: I know.

Stelios: Yeah, and you think, yeah, I think the older generation maybe had a lot more care about reusing.

Loren: I mean, people didn’t have as much money as we do now, so they had to reuse things and they were very frugal about, you know, what they were using, what they were buying, and same with food as well, food waste.

Stelios: Yeah, well, they never throw food away, did they? Let’s face it, like, never.

Loren: Well, some people do, you know, they do a massive weekly shopping and then half of it goes, really.

Stelios: Goes in the bin. Mm. Not with seafood they don’t. It’s too expensive.

Loren: No. Definitely not.

Stelios: So, moving forward, ‘cause we could talk about that all day.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: Sustainability, the word sustainability. I know you guys define it as, essentially, I’ve got point two here from your website.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And there’s more to it because there’s three points, isn’t there?

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: So, I picked out this one, and it’s minimising the environmental impact. What are the impacts fishing activity must be managed carefully so that other species and habitats within the ecosystem remain healthy.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Do you consider other aspects to sustainability? Like for example, and I put them underneath, ship permissions on waste, sustainable source, but what about plastic sheets in the slabs? I know that’s not your remit again, but you know, and then I recently read a not so old article about Mitch Tonks advocating the sustainability of day boat versus fish from the other side of the world. Are MSC doing more to make sure… make use of dayboat fish? What is MSCs view on this? So, there’s a few points there, so if we start on, like…

Loren: And I’ve got a lot of questions to answer there.

Stelios: Oh, okay, so if we start on…

Loren: So, I’ll start about sort of our sustainability in our fisheries.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: So, it all starts with fisheries. That’s how, you know, the MSC begins its journey, that’s there. So, you have a fishery and it voluntarily enters the assessment, and they’re assessed against three different principles. The first one is sustainable fish shop… fish stocks. So, essentially, are there enough fish left in the ocean? Can they continue fishing at a level, which is maintainable and that populations can remain healthy? So, they’re assessed against that principle.

The second one is minimising the environmental impact. So, what are the impacts the fishing vessel or fishery is having on the environment, and any fish activity that does take place must be managed carefully. So, that’s to make sure that other habitats don’t get caught up in the trouble as well.

And then the last one is effective fisheries management, so what that essentially means is a fishery that is complying to relevant laws, so say if your country brings in a law about X, Y or Z, you must comply to that, that law. So, in terms of sustainability, so that means leaving enough fish left in the ocean, that’s how we would define sustainability, and it means that these fishermen who are fishing, you know, they’re going out to work, they can do so whilst respecting habitats and ensuring people’s lives who depend on fishing can maintain their livelihoods, because fishing, obviously, is about the fish, but it’s also a livelihood for many people. And I think, I’m not sure what the stat is, around 12% of the world’s population rely on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihood. So, it doesn’t seem much, but it is quite a lot.

Stelios: What was that percentage again?

Loren: 12%.

Stelios: Okay, wow.

Loren: So, it is still quite a lot. And that’s not just the fisheries as well, that does cover, you know, processing and markets, etcetera, etcetera.

Stelios: No, that’s more people than… that’s more people than land farming. Yeah.

Loren: Yeah, so it’s quite a high stat, so that’s how we would define sustainability, and a fishery can be assessed, you know, regardless of its size or where it is or it’s fishing method. So, we allow any fishery with any fishing method, except sort of explosives, that, obviously, that’s a no-no.

Stelios: What about dragging? Or the net dragging?

Loren: So, what, dredging?

Stelios: Dredging, yeah.

Loren: So, dredging’s allowed.

Stelios: Okay.

Loren: We don’t sort of reject any gear type, but it must be done in a way which doesn’t affect the habitat.

Stelios: I thought… I thought that was a really invasive way? Like, dragging all the seabed.

Loren: Well, it depends on what they’re fishing for.

Stelios: Okay.

Loren: And this is monitored very carefully, and a fishery wouldn’t be allowed… a dredge fishery wouldn’t be allowed in the programme if it was dragging up half the ocean with it. So, yeah, we don’t sort of not let anyone come in. And the sustainability of a fishery is also an ongoing process. So, they may… I mentioned earlier, they come into the programme, and they have to meet a minimum score, and if they don’t meet the maximum on some scores, there’s conditions placed on these. And that means, essentially, making improvements. So, let’s say a fishery has a high mortality rate of seabirds when they’re fishing. There must be ways to reduce that.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: So, it was a South African hake fishery, which had problems with a high mortality of sea birds, and they brought that down to 1% of what it…

Stelios: What it was.

Loren: …previously was, it was a very high percentage, so it’s an ongoing process, and so that would cover the fisheries side of things of how we define sustainability in fisheries.

Stelios: And what about ship emissions, waste, etcetera.

Loren: So, we’re not adverse to eventually reviewing that. So, we have had feedback that people want to look at sort of carbon emissions and things like that. That’s not something we currently cover. Hopefully in our future fishery standards reviews we will do, but yeah, it’s not something we cover. So, someday in the future, hopefully, as well.

Stelios: Okay. And then, so yeah, so, obviously, plastics and slab is, obviously again, you don’t touch that aspect.

Loren: No.

Stelios: No. But I’m guessing there’s a little bit of common sense there, if that could be reduced.

Loren: Yes, of course, so I was in Norway in September with the top ten finalists in the National Fish and Chip Awards, which was an amazing trip, and so we were on board the Ramoen in Norway, and it’s an MSC certified vessel, part of the Norwegian fishery, they fish for cod and haddock mainly, and I couldn’t believe the amount of plastic that was put into the boxes, you know, it’s fillet, layer of plastic, fillet, layer of plastic, and I was like, ah! So, again, something that we don’t currently cover, but that’s…

Stelios: It clearly has a use, you know.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: We’re not saying they’re just doing it for the sake of it, it clearly has a use.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: But it just makes you wonder if there’s another alternative.

Loren: Yeah, so I was chatting to someone a while back and I can’t remember the exact details, but he said to me, someone was looking into alternative sort of packaging for fishing, so using the shell of crustaceans, it’s been broken down and then re-put together.

Stelios: It’s probably worse. Yeah.

Loren: Or… maybe, but it can be broken down.

Stelios: No, it sounds sexy though, doesn’t it?

Loren: It sounds very cool.

Stelios: So, that’s what it is.

Loren: Something like that. I mean, there must be an attentive way, again, it’s probably like the biodegradable, or whatever.

Stelios: You could just use wax paper.

Loren: Yeah. Have you heard of those beeswax wraps?

Stelios: No.

Loren: So, they’re… there’s a way, it’s like a concept to reduce plastic, so alternative to, like, clingfilm and, like, tin foil. They’re, like, made out of beeswax and they keep things really fresh, and it’s just a way to reduce your plastic use.

Stelios: Okay. Yeah, makes sense.

Loren: I’d look it up if you’ve never seen that. I’ve got some at home, they’re very good.

Stelios: Hmm. Okay. I’ll have a look at that.

Loren: Alternative ways, that’s what we need to look into.

Stelios: So, what about the Mitch Tonks thing? Not that it’s him all over, but what do you think about dayboat fish? Like, you know, is there, is there something you guys could to allow for that? Or do you?

Loren: I mean, we don’t say… we only say a fishery is sustainable if it’s entered the programme and gone through the assessment, and we don’t really give our opinion on other fisheries, unless we really wanted to, but that’s not to say that local can’t be sustainable. So, there’s a Cornish hake fishery that was certified a few years back now, so 2015, and that’s made up of a very small fishery, and some of them are day boats. And that’s, like, local and sustainable, so we don’t say no to, like, dayboats. And that’s a good example of a very small local fishery. Another example would be a recently certified Poole Harbour Clam and Cockle Fishery. So, that’s a very small fishery, very small boats as well, I think they call them, like, canoe boats. And, again, it’s local and it’s sustainable. But there are massive fishing fleets that go really far out for a long time, and they’re sustainable as well.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: And so, I mean…

Stelios: I’m… I’m sorry to butt in. I’m sort of guessing that… well, we’ll get into it a little bit later, but I’m sort of guessing that it’s more long liners that jump in because the investment that’s needed, maybe, and all of that? The costs involved for MSC certification at that level?

Loren: Yeah, I think there is, there is obviously a cost to certification, that it can be expensive, and that would probably be considered a barrier to entry, but, I mean, we work with the industry, so there’s a project called PUKFI, which stands for Project UK Fisheries Improvements, and that’s a programme we facilitate with industry and stakeholders. And what it essentially does, it looks at fisheries across the UK, which are demanded by the market. They’re in high demand, but they’re not currently certified sustainable. So, we facilitate these programmes and what the aim of the programme is, is to use the MSC programme to drive improvements in these fisheries.

So, we’re supported by the supply chain retailers and NGOs and we focus on commercially important species, and I think… the fisheries, they’re at very low level now, so they wouldn’t be ready for the MSC programme, but working with the industry, who would love these species, you know, in their supply chain. We’re working with them to bring them up to a standard where they could be certified sustainable, you know, and there are actions put in place, you know, maybe it needs more catch data, or it might be something to the gear type.

And I think that’s really important that… ’cause we… and we love British fish, so if we can have more UK, British fisheries, that would be great. I mean, we’re quite lucky in the UK that we’ve got a lot of UK fisheries, you know, you’ve got the big three up in Scotland, the cod, the haddock, the hake, then you’ve got Poole Harbour Clam and Cockles and Cornish hake, and you’ve got Irish mussels and, you know, we’re very lucky like that.

Stelios: Very good. Okay. And I think, and I think a lot of the time, these local fisheries, the UK fisheries, they don’t tend to do the MSC certification. They’ll always say that… well, not all, but they’ll say, you know, it’s too much, the barriers of entry is too high. So, I wonder, as we get a bit further on down, we can talk about that.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: And see if they can ever be, you know, sort of included somehow.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: But, obviously, I put a question saying a discard’s an issue, ‘cause they were a few years ago, but, you know, you said that they’re just… there’s a lot of sort of movement on that at the movement, and you couldn’t comment yet, because you haven’t been given guidance.

Loren: Yeah. So, I mean, we know that the discard ban is coming in, and there’s a landing obligations in place. We have been working with industry, so Erin, who you quoted earlier, she held sort of a workshop, I think it was in Berlin or somewhere in Europe, to discuss what would happen. I mean, I’m not fully briefed on it, so we can’t go onto my proper opinion.

Stelios: Mm-hm, that’s all right. Yeah.

Loren: But, you know, it is a problem and it will be a challenge for fishermen and the industry as well.

Stelios: And I definitely, like, I think I said to you before we started recording, that I think that topic, there’s only gonna… well, there’s always gonna be winners and losers. Yeah, there’s always gonna be people that are upset with the fact that… yeah, and it’s a tricky one because, you know, common sense tells you that you shouldn’t put good fish back in the water that’s dead.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: You know, and then… but the fact is, that’s got to come off a quota. So, there’s gonna be people aren’t gonna be happy with that, whatever we say.

Loren: Unfortunately, yeah. I mean, it’s a bit of a faff. That’s how I would… it’s a bit of palaver, really.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: But we’re working as hard as we can to support the fisheries and how that… because, because fisheries are in the programme, this discard ban will affect them in the programme in some way or another.

Stelios: Yeah, and actually, it segues onto the topic I want to talk about next, which is people eating different types of fish.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And actually, it’s worth noting that some of the fish that’s getting thrown back in, nobody would have ate in the first place.

Loren: Well, yeah.

Stelios: It’s like, you know, if it’s not sexy, no one wants to sort of sell it, do they know?

Loren: No.

Stelios: No, which is unfortunate because I think I found that it’s still that the predominant fish that are sold at home is still salmon and tuna, at home, isn’t it?

Loren: Yes, and the cod and the haddock, as well.

Stelios: Yeah, so I suppose they’re just up there, aren’t they? All the time.

Loren: Yes, exactly. So, we work with… so, at my main work involves working with fish and chip shops.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: And they’re just wonderful people to work with, they’re so passionate, and where we can, we try and support them in, you know, selling different, alternative species because, you know, don’t get me wrong, if I go into a fish and chip shop, I’m going to have cod or I’m going to have haddock. And I went up to Miller’s Fish & Chips, I think, at least six months ago now, and we were giving out free samples of Cornish hake to people who were coming into the shop, and some people have never been tried hake before.

Stelios: Cornish hake’s amazing.

Loren: And it is… oh, it’s delightful. And people were like, wow, it’s amazing. Can you get this to the supermarket? And we’re like, yeah, you can get in the supermarket. But people are just stuck in their ways and I think, you know, we try and push it as much as we can, you know, like I mentioned earlier, there’s so many fisheries around the UK that people can utilise from, so you’ve got The Clam and Cockles. Those small Clam and Cockles are being used in a local fish and chip shop just down the road, and they’re promoting that as a different dish to your usual fish & chips. Kingfisher Fish & Chips in Plymouth, they have a very extensive menu. They’ve got… they had lobster, they’ve got crab, I think, coley, pollock. Where you can, I would suggest trying to promote species. Maybe give out free samples. I mean, if you’re cooking things fresh, you can chuck something else in the fryer, and just give out free samples to people and then that change their opinion.

Stelios: Yeah. And I think, in my mind, I think some of the problem is that some of the… if you think seafood’s expensive, well, the alternatives that we usually give for cod and haddock are generally just as expensive. You know, so I think, I wonder if that makes people less, less… what’s the word? Less, uh, less chance of trying something different, let’s say. You know, whereas if they were doing something like coley, and I don’t know if coley is sustainable, I’m just throwing a fish out there.

Loren: There is a certified coley fishery.

Stelios: Yeah. There we go.

Loren: So, it’s very sustainable.

Stelios: So, yeah, if someone’s doing coley and they can offer it at a better price and, again, it’s a lower barrier to entry, isn’t it? The customer could try it and let’s say it’s a quarter of the price of cod.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Well, maybe not a quarter, a quarter off the price, yeah? So, people can try it and not feel like, oh, yeah, my money’s being wasted, and I do wonder if that’s the way to go, where we can offer better value with different species, and then they get trying different things. Coley’s not so different to cod.

Loren: No, it’s a white fish, it’s flaky, and it’s not that expensive.

Stelios: I like the taste, yeah.

Loren: And it’s very sustainable.

Stelios: It’s cheap. Basically, it’s… I mean, it represents amazing value, and I think, you know, going… looking at Kingfishers and, not to single them out, because you mentioned them.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: I know some people in the industry would argue that, you know, them… not just them, but lots of people like them getting lots of different fish from all over the world isn’t probably as sustainable as what it should be, you know.

Loren: I mean, no, you’re right. Flying things in…

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: It’s not great, but there are so many UK British fisheries.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: So, you’ve got hake, plaice, white, cod, Haddock, coley, clams and cockles, mussels, scallops…

Stelios: There’s just an abundance, yeah.

Loren: Yeah, exactly. And, you know, local can be sustainable, you know. We want people to, you know, like, sell British fish and eat British fish because we have so much of it and it’s delicious as well. And we should also reward the fishermen and the people putting the practices in place to bring the sustainable fisheries into the programme, you know? Like North Sea cod, however many years ago it was, it was at the brink of collapse, and it dropped to under half of what we eat, of what we would consume in the UK, and what the North Sea cod fishery has come back into the programme and is certified sustainable now, so local can be sustainable.

Stelios: Yeah, and you can still, you know, we always tell people, you can still eat cod and haddock and not feel guilty, you know.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Whether consumers actually feel guilty or not, I don’t know, but we always say that, everyone uses that line, you can eat it without feeling guilty.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: I actually think most of the time people eat their cod and chips and don’t even think twice.

Loren: They’re hungry.

Stelios: Yeah, they’re just hungry, they want to eat, they’ve had a long day, they just want to eat. You know, so I do think that, you know, I mean, a lot of my customers serve lots of different fish, but the majority will be just doing cod and haddock and, you know.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: But that’s just the way the industry has been for 150 years as well, so you can’t blame them for that. Well, not you, I mean generally.

Loren: Yes, no, I mean, when you think of fish & chips, you think of cod, you know, down south, where I’m from, it’s more cod. I never tried haddock until I went up north and it changed my life, it was wonderful. But it’s just changing perceptions because, you know, up until a year ago I actually didn’t eat fish. So, I grew up…

Stelios: Wow.

Loren: …you know, my mum would cook me fish and I used to hate it. Maybe it was the way she cooked it, so if she listened to this, I’m very sorry, mum. But it got to the point where I was like, I can’t take it anymore, stop giving me this fish. And I just got into a bit of a mindset that, oh no, all fish is disgusting, and since starting at the MSC, I explored so many different species and it just changed my way. I think you just be brave because I was the fussiest food eater ever, but now I will eat any fish I can get hold of.

Stelios: I think the tolerance of cooking fish is r… the error for margin is really small.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: And I think home cooks, especially, you know, your mum is probably the generation that could cook still, and we’re in a generation of people today that don’t cook as much.

Loren: Yeah, people don’t know how to cook fish.

Stelios: Yeah, see, it’s daunting and it’s really expensive. At the supermarket, it’s probably similar price to steak, let’s say, you know, but, you know, a steak, if you overcook it for 30 seconds, 40 seconds, it’s not gonna be the end of your meal, whereas with fish, it is.

Loren: And I think what people do is they overcook fish, and they don’t know how to cook it well, and then it tastes disgusting.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: And it puts them off.

Stelios: Yeah, and I don’t blame them, you know, but I think, you know, I think it’s weird ‘cause this country who c… cooking shows on every five minutes yet nobody can cook.

Loren: No. And people are so lazy, they get the recipe boxes, which, don’t get me wrong, I think they’re a good idea for people who are so busy, but, you know, there’s programmes on where people just, like, I don’t know how to make a white sauce, or I can only cook beans on toast. How can you only cook beans on toast? It’s not… I don’t think it’s that hard.

Stelios: Well, that’s not cooking though, is it?

Loren: Well, no.

Stelios: They’re assembling it.

Loren: Throw it in the pot.

Stelios: So, if you get that wrong, something’s wrong.

Loren: I just think, you know, my advice would be, be brave. I was brave, and now, I eat a lot of fish & chips.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: And fish, you know, grilled fish, fried fish, you name it.

Stelios: Yeah, yeah. I love it. Well, I’m from Cyprus, well, my family’s from Cyprus and, you know, it’s all seafood. Everything we eat, generally. It’s really nice, you know, there’s restaurants that are literally on the beach, they walk in with the octopus. It’s amazing, you know, it’s just so fresh. But we don’t… yeah, well, I say we don’t get it that much over here, but then I live in the Midlands, so I’m not gonna see that, am I?

Loren: Yes, and also, you know, we mentioned earlier, we mainly eat the big five, so you’re not really going to see, you know, the nice variety that you would get in Cyprus because…

Stelios: No, of course not, ’cause everyone’s just—

Loren: …we only demand the boring stuff.

Stelios: So, is there any… I know it’s probably the same with chicken, that people just want boneless and skinless, I get that.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: But is there any sort of campaigns at MSC or do you work closely with any other organisation to get people to eat in the not big five, the different…?

Loren: So, I think the people that handle that will be Sea Fish, they do their seafood week, and they obviously encourage people to eat, I think it’s two portions of fish a week, at least.

Stelios: Okay, that’s right. Yeah.

Loren: And the majority of people in the UK do not get that close, I’ll admit.

Stelios: Tuna, I bet you, is definitely one of those, isn’t it?

Loren: Yeah, and tinned tuna.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: That, oh, I’ll be honest, that’s not for me.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: But… so, they’re really good at promoting that, and that’s what they…

Stelios: Yeah, that’s their thing.

Loren: That’s their thing, and we’ll go for it as well, and where we can…

Stelios: You support it.

Loren: We support it if we can, yeah, and, you know, if we’re talking to fish and chip shops or industry, you know, we’ll say to them, do you know how many different species there are out there that you can try?

Stelios: No, apparently there’s only two in fish and chip shops.

Loren: Ooh, is there?

Stelios: No, to be fair, if you get to London, you got skate and I know that’s not… well, what do they serve instead of now? Is it ray wing?

Loren: Oh, yeah.

Stelios: There’s another one that’s sustainable, isn’t there? I can’t remember what it is. Well, there was on MCS website.

Loren: Oh, okay, well, we know the MCS.

Stelios: And that’s the other thing, like, sometimes there is different advice, isn’t there? So, that might confuse people a bit.

Loren: Yeah, I know. That’s the confusion, you know, we have very similar acronyms, but…

Stelios: A little bit poorer than you guys.

Loren: Well, I can’t comment on that, but my advice would be, look for the blue fish.

Stelios: Yeah, exactly, of course. And also, if that’s not there, just be more varied as well.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: Just eat different fish.

Loren: And as well, rather than just serving it in batter, why not try a fishcake or serve it a different way?

Stelios: Yeah, I would love people doing fishcakes, as I sell a fishcake mix.

Loren: Let’s all buy his fishcake mix.

Stelios: But no, what I mean is, though, and I’ve always said for years, the way to reduce portion sizes, that’s a really big issue at the moment, is that if you trim the tail, trim the belly, you’ve got some little bits and bobs of fish that will go make fishcakes. You’ve got second revenue stream from that, so that’s something we’ve always pushed, and I think, also, fish portion sizes have probably gone a little bit higher.

Loren: Yeah, so I was speaking to Andrew Crook yesterday, and…

Stelios: Someone has to.

Loren: Yeah, someone… hi, Andrew. And we were talking about, you know, things that are coming in place that, you know, reduce… they’re going to have to eventually put calories on the menu and reducing portion sizes. And I do think it’s important because people do overeat. If I get fish & chips with my mum, we have to share a bit of fish because I physically cannot eat that massive bit of fish. Well, I probably could, but we have to share it because my local chippy doesn’t offer a smaller size, and sometimes, you know, of an evening, I might just fancy small bite of fish & chips, and I think it’s great when shops do offer the light bite, you know, small portion of chips and the fish, as well. I think that’s wonderful, and I think we should be doing more of that in the industry.

Stelios: I think so, no, definitely. I think, ‘cause something’s gonna, you know, I think there’s some point we’re going to hit a bit of a brick wall with prices so…

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Well, if we haven’t already.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: You know, but no, definitely, I think portion sizes need to be a bit more sensible.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: But I think we don’t… we can’t lose sight of the fact that fish & chips needs to remain value for money for the consumer.

Loren: Exactly.

Stelios: You know, at the end of day, it’s a working man’s meal. I genuinely believe that some people will think twice about getting Chinese, but I think fish & chips, people don’t generally think twice.

Loren: No, I think fish & chips, for what you’re getting, is reasonably priced. I mean, sometimes if you go to very, very posh place, it’s, you know, I can get this for a lot cheaper.

Stelios: Yeah, of course.

Loren: I know what you mean, with Chinese. It can be so expensive, fish & chips, I don’t really bat an eyelid.

Stelios: No.

Loren: I’ve noticed prices go up, but that’s only natural.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: And it really gets to me when people complain about the price of fish & chips. You’re getting, you know, normally a very high-quality bit of fish, some really great chips, they’re pretty sustainably sourced potatoes as well, and you think about the work that goes into it, and they’ve got a run a shop and they’ve got to do X, Y and Z. People don’t really think about the bigger picture.

Stelios: No, no, I think most consumers just think that the average fish and chip shop owner rolls out of bed at quarter to 11 to open at half 11. And I think… and that’s always, I think, you know, an issue like… have you watched… oh, what is it? It’s on BBC, I watched it yesterday for the first time. It’s where people pitch to restaurant investors.

Loren: Oh, One Million Pound Menu.

Stelios: That’s it.

Loren: I love that programme.

Stelios: And I was talking about it this morning, ’cause it only came to my attention yesterday, and… I’m late to these things.

Loren: Late on the train.

Stelios: Yeah, late on the train. And they were saying that, oh, you know, they love noodles and they love rice because it costs like 20p to put a bowl of food together, but you’re selling it for six, seven quid. Whereas with fish & chips, well, it’s all based around the protein, isn’t it? You know, fish is costing 1.60, let’s say. Well, by the time you triple that by… you know, triple that…

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And then you’ve got your chips. It’s not… you can’t just… you can’t just add a number and be, like, oh yeah, I’m making 100% margin, like you can with these bowls of rice. And I have nothing against bowls of rice. If people want to eat, you know, if people want to carb-load and never do a run for it, that’s fine.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: But for me, I think fish & chips is… the problem is that, years ago when, let’s say, cod and haddock was their cheat, no one ever sort of, like, you know, tweaked their prices as we were moving up and it stopped becoming a cheap product, if that makes sense.

Loren: Yes, and, like you said, I don’t think people bat an eyelid when they pay for fish & chips. I certainly don’t. But I would bat an eyelid, and I think, oh, am I paying, like, 10 quid for this meal, when I could make this at home for a couple quid?

Stelios: It’s worth noting that you respect fish a lot differently to most other people.

Loren: I guess I am biased in that way.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: I know you mean, though.

Stelios: Yeah, and I would be too, because if I went and paid £10 fish & chips, I’d be like, whatever, like, yeah. You know, there’s restaurants in London that charge £26 for fish & chips, and people will buy it, you know?

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: So, you know, what I’m getting at is, you know, to some people, that represents good value for money.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: They’re obviously wealthier than us and, you know, they’ve got very good jobs, and if they’re already in that type of restaurant, they’re gonna spend that sort of money anyway. So, I think that fish & chips should always remain value for money, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.

Loren: Yes, exactly.

Stelios: And I think this is where, looking at other species, even if it’s just on a day offer or a weekly offering, doesn’t mean it has to be cheaper. And it needs to represent great value, so, you know, so if it’s coley or pollock or hokey or hake, or whatever, like you said, as long as it’s sustainable, I think there’s some good… you can get more customers through the door with a cheaper offering, and still maintain a good margin.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: So, well, that’s a thought anyway.

Loren: Yeah, no, and I agree, and I think, you know, good value for money, you’re getting a good source of protein from the fish, some nice carbs from the chips, and then some mushy peas as well.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: And I also heard a fact… I was listening to another podcast that, apparently…

Stelios: How dare you?

Loren: Oh, sorry, I only listen to this one. And that you can get more… I think is more vitamin C, when you fry your chip, when you fry potatoes.

Stelios: Oh, right.

Loren: There’s more vitamin C in a fried potato than there is in a normal potato, and people were like, oh my god, I can’t eat chips. Well, a few chips don’t hurt anyone.

Stelios: I’m guessing that’s probably because you’re… well, you’ve dehydrated the product, so maybe there’s less water, so there’s more vitamin C?

Loren: Yeah, I’m not sure the science behind it, but I thought, okay, that makes me feel better about getting a portion of chips.

Stelios: And then also, you know, people don’t realise that flours in this country are all fortified, you’ve got vitamin C, you know, it’s full of vitamins and now they’re just, like, folic acid, so, you know, everyone should be snorting batter like its going out of fashion.

Loren: Well, each their own.

Stelios: So, let’s move on to what could be seen as a contentious issue.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: Sorry.

Loren: Don’t worry.

Stelios: So, let’s look at the costs involved, like the annual audit, cost of using MSC, da, da, da. So, annual audit. I did a bit of research. 250 to 1000 pounds a year. Is that right? To get your annual audit?

Loren: Is this… are you talking about fisheries or Chain of Custody here?

Stelios: Chain of Custody.

Loren: So, 250,000 did you say?

Stelios: No, no, £250 to 1000.

Loren: Okay, so…

Stelios: For a fish and chip shop, say.

Loren: For a fish and chip shop, all right, so I’ll explain it to you.

Stelios: Break it down, like, yeah.

Loren: (Sings) I’ll break it down for you. Okay, so, we’re quite unique in the UK that we offer a cheaper way to get into the programme for independent businesses.

Stelios: Some would argue with that.

Loren: Well, some would argue, but you know, let me explain. So, it’s essentially a group certificate, and it’s an easier way to enter, more cost-effective, you know, less admin. And so we offer that through the NFFF. We don’t do any of the audits, that’s all done third party, so we don’t have any influence on who comes into the programme. So, I’ve got the prices here as well.

Stelios: Brilliant.

Loren: So, it can be up to… yeah, so, if you’re a quality award holder and a member of the NFFF, if you want to become MSC certified, that’s £250.

Stelios: And just for those that don’t know, NFFF is National Federation of Fish Fryers.

Loren: Yes. The big dogs. So, that… I mean, I understand it can be expensive to some, and these are very small independent businesses and they’ve got a lot on their plate. But if you were a business who want to do their own certificate and not join this group certificate, it can be onwards and upwards from 1000 to £1500. So, we would say this is a significantly cheaper way to get into the programme, and sort of reaping the benefits, and I completely understand, it can be seen as a, you know, a barrier to entry. But this is the better way of doing it for a fish and chip shop. So, they’re audited and their certificate lasts three years once they’ve passed.

Stelios: Okay, so that fee isn’t yearly then?

Loren: That fee is yearly.

Stelios: Oh, that fee is yearly, but it lasts three years?

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Okay.

Loren: So, it lasts three years and you have a surveillance audit every year. So…

Stelios: Surveillance audit.

Loren: So, when you first come into the programme, an assessor will come and assess your business and make sure you’re adhering to the principles. So, the Chain of Custody is just one of our two standards. So, I mentioned it earlier, our fishery standard, then with the Chain of Custody standard, which is our traceability and segregation standards. So, that means that any product with the blue label on, if it’s on the menu or in a packet on a packaged product, it means it’s come from a certified sustainable fishery and is 100% traceable.

Stelios: Okay.

Loren: So, without that blue label, you don’t actually know what you’re buying or what you’re getting. So, they’re assessed on the five principles with a Chain of Custody certification requirements. They pass, and that is all done on-site, so they check, for example, that the fish is segregated, so we have to make sure that you’re keeping your MSC fish and your non-MSC fish separate.

Stelios: Oh yeah, they’re not allowed to touch either, are they?

Loren: Yeah, they’ve got to be separate. No cuddling for the fish. So yes…

Stelios: I’ve seen that, yeah.

Loren: They’ve got to be separated from non-MSC fish. They need to do things like recording the purchase of their MSC fish, checking the invoices so that it’s all labelled correctly, you know, that you’re purchasing from a certified supplier. So, that’s the first requirement, purchasing from a certified supplier because, if you don’t, then you don’t actually know the fish you’re getting is MSC or not.

Stelios: Okay, so, for example then, when you said that if it wasn’t MSE, you wouldn’t know where it came from?

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: Doesn’t it say on the label what area it’s come from, I think? Like FAOX27, let’s say, or something like that.

Loren: Are you talking about non-label products here?

Stelios: Yeah, non-blue label.

Loren: Yeah, so, I mean, some products do have where it comes from on, but that being said, it might be from FAO27, but you don’t know who’s…

Stelios: I don’t even know what FAO27 is, I’ve just seen it in a shop. And I think… okay.

Loren: So, the world’s ocean is separated into areas.

Stelios: Thanks for that.

Loren: It’s common sense. And, I mean, yup, you can see that your your fish has been caught, you know, in FAO27, but how has it been caught? You know, what sort of efforts have been used, and if they’re using a certain gear type, what has actually happened to the seabed, for example. But with the MSC blue label, you know that that fish has come from a sustainable fishery, and that any sort of impacts they’re having on the environment are reduced to, as, like, a minimum as they can. So, that’s sort of the reliability with the programme.

Stelios: And, just so I understand it, so, Chain of Custody means that the vessel…

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: …is certified?

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Then the resellers as well?

Loren: Yes, so, anyone throughout the supply chain…

Stelios: …has to be…

Loren: …MSC certified, so anyone who wants to sell their seafood is MSC, or wants to use the blue label, they must have Chain of Custody in place.

Stelios: So, if we… just to break it down for our industry only, I’m not picking out names because I’m trying to, you know, get anyone into trouble. So say, for example, the vessel you mentioned earlier was Ramon?

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: They would sell, for arguments sake, to Friars Pride or T. Quality?

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: They would have to have Chain of Custody as well?

Loren: Yes, so, Friar’s Pride, T. Quality, for example, naming names, they’ve got MSC certification, so they’re MSC certified.

Stelios: So then, the next person in the line, let’s say X fish and chip shop…

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: …they want to be certified, they would do that, and then that’s it, that’s the whole chain?

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Okay, brilliant.

Loren: So, the likes of T. Quality and those certified suppliers, they have what we call a Chain of Custody number, which is a unique code, and our requirement is they put that on their invoice, and the fishery that they buy their fish from, that has a fishery certification code as well. So, the suppliers need to buy from a certified fishery.

Stelios: So, just so I can understand this.

Loren: No, no, don’t worry.

Stelios: So if, for example then, they bought fish from a non-MSC certified wholesaler.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: But the fish was MSC-certified, where does that… what does that mean?

Loren: Okay, so, that’s the point where we…

Stelios: I know we’re getting a bit technical, but, yeah.

Loren: No, it’s fine, it’s good to explain it. And that’s the point where we can’t actually trace where that fish has come from. So, they might say they purchase from a certified fishery, but how do you know that, and when it gets to their sort of warehouse, for example, how do they store it? Is it just mixed in with other MSC fish or non-MSC fish? And then it’s sold on to another supplier, and they’re like, yeah, this is MSC. But how do you know? Because they could have had a batch of non-MSC and MSC fish, for all you know, but that Chain of Custody code and the certification ensures that, throughout the supply chain, that that fishery is 100% traceable and certified sustainable. So, that’s the way we, you know, keep a track of things and make sure that anyone who is using the blue label is doing so for the right reasons.

Stelios: Well, you should hope they are anyways.

Loren: Well, yeah.

Stelios: So then we move on to the Blue Label.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And… you did ask me earlier on about that blue label, so it was quite early on.

Loren: I did.

Stelios: We’ve come back around to it. So, this is where there is another fee, and that is zero to 130,000 of fish sales or purchases, even, is £160. And then the next one is 130 to 330,000 per annum of fish purchases, £800. And then 330,000 and onwards, £1600. So, that’s the three tiers. So, here’s… why isn’t this more simplified? And I know you rely on all the funding, you need it, obviously. And obviously, you know, you feel strongly about the blue label, but why, why isn’t it all in? Like, why can’t it be all in one, like, to not confuse people?

Loren: Yeah, of course. So, to get things straight, when you’re audited, you’re done by a third-party certification body. So, the MSC simply write standards. We don’t have any influence who comes into the programme. That’s the same with fisheries and businesses alike, so we don’t do the audits, it’s done third party, someone from an external company will come in and audit your business.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: In terms of the licence agreement, so the blue label, it’s a… it’s, you know, we want to protect it.

Stelios: Of course.

Loren: MSC, Marine Stewardship Council, was a registered trademark. So, that’s where the licence fee comes into play. And it’s different for foodservice, so for fish & chips, we felt that it was, you know, another barrier to entry and, you know, previously, fish & chips were on what we call a royalty scheme.

Stelios: Okay.

Loren: So, we’re doing, I think it was .5% of how much seafood they were selling that was MSC. So, essentially, we’ve changed that now to more of a… it’s called a site fee structure.

Stelios: Okay.

Loren: They’re liable for an annual fee at the start, so that depends on the amount of MSC certified seafood that they purchase, and that can start as little as £160. And then, depending on the amount of sites they have, then they’re liable for the site fee. So, if you’ve got one site, you’re paying £160 for the year. That’s it. That’s what the use of the label, we’ll give you some marketing materials, we’ll help you promote your certification. Any more than one site, then you do start paying the site fee. So, we’ve made it easier for foodservice businesses to enter the programme and use the label.

Stelios: Okay, so, I was chatting to a customer of mine yesterday, and he’s got 12 sites.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And he says he just doesn’t think he could ever become MSC certified because he feels, and they’re all good sites, but he just feels that it’s quite a large… not a burden, but a tax, as such.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And he says, look, he goes, all the fish we get is sustainable. He goes we know it is because we we know who we buy off and so on and so on, and they do have very strict controls. So, and I think, his argument was, and also an argument of some people that do do have the blue label with you, do support that scheme. They were just thinking, is it too much money? And obviously, I understand why, because you’ve just told me earlier…

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: …that, you know, there’s no government funding and, you know. So, you know, is there an argument that says that, if it was a bit cheaper and easier to get into, you’d get more shops on board?

Loren: Um… I mean, I guess so. But, you know, like I mentioned earlier, we’re an NGO, we have funding, but majority of our income does come from the licence agreement, and so that’s how we sort of keep going and how we work with more fisheries to bring new species into the programme and to work with businesses alike. And it helps us also develop our standards as well, so our standards are very, you know, very unique, and the only the only ones of their kind. And if we didn’t invest our time and our effort and our money into that, they would just become sort of, you know, relaxed, really, and it wouldn’t become as strict and sort of rigid and credible as it currently is. So, that’s why… I know, I understand that there is… I mean, with everything, there is a cost to the barrier to entry, but that shouldn’t people put people off, because people are starting to recognise the label more and, in fact, our latest studies show… let me get the figure up because I want to get this right, so we do like a consumer study every two years, and our latest study showed that 77% of British consumers demand independent labelling for brands and supermarkets sustainability claims. So, consumers want to see the blue label on menus and on packaging as well because, as I mentioned earlier, sustainability is a bit of a buzzword and it gets thrown around too much. You might say your fish is sustainable, but how do you really know?

Stelios: Yeah, and I get that, but that also doesn’t stop some people from just putting something on a menu that says ‘our fish comes from sustainable sources’.

Loren: Yes, no, it doesn’t.

Stelios: And obviously, we got into it when we first met and I was like, what if I do something…

Loren: I know, you were trying to start a fight with me, weren’t you?

Stelios: And obviously, I’ve done a bit of research, a little bit of it, and you know, you’re right, your intellectual property is solid.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And I get that, and it has to be, because you just don’t want every Tom, Dick, or Harry just saying, oh yeah, we use MSC. So, I think, for me, I just can’t help but think that, with prices being the way they are… I was talking to someone the other day, fish is up 30 to 35% this year, potatoes are up nearly double then last year. I worry for MSC, in some respects, that people would be quick, although they believe in the mission, they’d be quick to make savings, and usually things like this are the first things to go. Do you get what I mean?

Loren: Yes, but I also don’t think it should be that way because…

Stelios: No, I agree with you.

Loren: …you know, at the end of the day, fish is the core product of fish & chips, and without fish, there’s no fish & chips. So, why wouldn’t you want to protect the oceans for future generations?

Stelios: No, I think they do, I think they do, and I think… but at the same time, I think they feel like they’re just getting taxed a bit, if you get what I mean.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: So, for example, one guy says, all right, let me find this. All right, so, he used McDonald’s as an example, yeah?

Loren: Okay.

Stelios: He says, McDonald’s do the fillet fish. It’s hokey or pollock, isn’t it?

Loren: Yes, I think it might be pollock.

Stelios: It changes, doesn’t it, I think?

Loren: Yeah, so I think it used to be hockey, but I think it might be pollock now.

Stelios: Yeah, that’s it. And it’s worldwide certified, is it?

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: Yeah, and he says there’s no way in this world that they pay the same as what we would pro-rata. He goes, they would’ve sat down, negotiated it. If you… no, that’s what he was saying.

Loren: Okay.

Stelios: He goes, so, you imagine it goes, McDonald’s, you want to sit us at the table, what are you going to do? And he goes, there’s just no way they’d be paying the same, ’cause, one thing I found afterwards, is that there was an, I don’t know if it applies to McDonald’s, but there’s also a product fee, isn’t there? If you sell a branded product with the blue label on.

Loren: So, you’re only charged royalty fees…

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: …if you sell…

Stelios: A retailer product.

Loren: So, a consumer-facing product.

Stelios: Okay, so it won’t apply to the fillet-o-fish, or would it? I’m just wondering now.

Loren: Yeah, so it would.

Stelios: Oh, so, it would.

Loren: Yeah, because they’re using the label on that, and they charge… I think they charge on the royalty fee, but no, they don’t negotiate anything with us. You know, our standards are very credible, and we stick to them. We don’t offer something to someone and then something for another person.

Stelios: Yeah, and again, this was just a general feeling, that he feels like the smaller, independent wouldn’t get to ever negotiate anything like that. And we’re not on about negotiating about, oh, yeah, just say it’s sustainable and we’ll give you the money. It was still sustainable, but what they’re saying is, he doesn’t think that… he sort of thinks that, you know, if you’ve got a major player coming on board, you could say, right, you know what, rather than that annual fee of 1600, how ‘bout we just say it’s a grand.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: You know, just to negate, to make it happen. And that’s only… it’s just a general feeling. Clearly, he had no proof, it wasn’t some conspiracy, it was just a feeling. Yeah.

Loren: Yeah, and I completely understand where they’re coming from. I mean, we are quite a big organisation and people might see us that way, but we’re not a money-making scheme. If we were, we would be doing, you know, we wouldn’t care about the oceans we wouldn’t have made the changes that we have done, and the impact on water is incredible. You know, we’ve got 359 fisheries certified, another 89 in assessment, and that represents around 14% of the world’s wild capture. And they might have… improvements these fisheries have made to make sure that their fishing’s sustainable and to make sure that, you know, me and you, we’ve got fish on our plates. I mean, we can demonstrate change, and we have done, and that’s where the licence fees come into play. We’re not here to make money, we’re here to make a difference.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: And I can categorically say that we don’t negotiate with people. You know, our fees are our fees, and they’re not just used, you know, for us. They’re put into good things, you know, awareness-raising, developing our standards to make sure they’re the most credible around, consumer campaigns, market development, and working with our partners as well. For example, fish and chip shops, we like to… hopefully, we’ll do tradeshows in the future or do campaigns or develop materials for them so they can promote their certification to customers. Things like that. So, we do reward them, you know, they do get things in return for the cost of the label.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: Marketing material, press releases, we work with them where we can, so it’s not just a money-making scheme.

Stelios: No, no, of course not. No, no. No one’s suggesting that.

Loren: No.

Stelios: But I really do think, you know, if the powers that be sort of thought, you know what guys? Girls, guys, yeah, we can, you know, let’s charge a little bit less but let’s target more fish and chip shops.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: Because I generally believe that you would benefit greatly.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: I really do think that.

Loren: So, yeah, but, I mean, £160 for the year for one site, do you think that’s too extortionate?

Stelios: I think it’s moreso when you pile it all together.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: So, when you then think, you know, everyone’s sort of, like, putting the hand in your pocket from a fish and chip shop point of view, you know, for example, you’ve got NFFF membership, you’ve got this, you’ve got that, you’ve got MSC. So, what you probably want, moreso, in my mind, is that you don’t want to be optional.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: You just want people to say, it’s 100 quid. You know.

Loren: Yeah, so, before the fee structure came into place, there were fish and chip shops were on the royalty scheme, and that worked out at a lot more, they were paying a lot more money for their licence. This is what we’ve done and hopefully we can improve on it in the future. I’ll take their feedback. But this makes it easier for them, and it’s cheaper.

Stelios: And I’m not trying to set you up here, I actually don’t know the answer to this. How many people are… how many fish and chip shops are MSC certified?

Loren: As of yesterday, 124.

Stelios: Okay, so, you know, there’s 11,000 fish and chip shops, roughly.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: I’d like to see that figure… ’cause I think everyone that I talk to will say, I believe in their mission.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: I don’t think there’s anybody that says, no, load of crap. Like, I just don’t think there is. So, I just feel like, if it was… I don’t know. I understand what you’re saying about the annual audit, you can’t bring it together because that’s an outside party that does that.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: But I just think that, if you could say, you know what guys?  Even… all right. So, let’s look at another option. So, say the fee was still there.

Loren: Mm-hm.

Stelios: But it all went to the processor. So, the top end. The fish… the person who’s got the boat. Yeah?

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And then it just made its way down. Like, all the way down. Almost like a levy, like Seaf…

Loren: Okay.

Stelios: You know, and I’m not excepting you to go upstairs and get an answer right now, but what I’m saying is, imagine then, that it just sort of became the norm, you know?

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And I get there’s issues with that because, well, how are people going to then use the blue label, and so on. But I just feel like, if the barrier to entry was lower, I think you’d increase your numbers tenfold. Not even double. I just think it’d be great to see 1000 fish and chip shops.

Loren: Yeah. Oh, don’t get me wrong.

Stelios: Do you know what I mean?

Loren: That’d be the dream.

Stelios: But, I think, when they’re sort of… you know, it’s tough times out there, and I think, when it’s tough times, it’s all the extras that end up falling by the wayside. You know, so, I’d hate to see that 120 something… was it 120 something?

Loren: 124.

Stelios: Yeah, I’d hate to see that drop to 60, ’cause it’d be awful ’cause you guys are really trying hard, do a great job. So, I want to reiterate that we really believe in your mission.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: But, you know, it’s all about the numbers.

Loren: Yeah, I know, that’s why we’ve got, you know, plans for the future. We were gonna work closely with the National Federation of Fish Fryers, because they’ve goals as well. They want more people MSC certified as well.

Stelios: Mm, course they do. Yeah.

Loren: And, you know, so do we. So, we’re gonna work closely with them to try and bring the numbers up, and… I mean, I guess we do want to make it sort of an industry norm.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: I mean, why wouldn’t you want to do it?

Stelios: Exactly.

Loren: I mean, you want to protect your business, it’s your livelihood. Why do you not care about the fish that you’re serving, and how can you guarantee that your fish is MSC certified without the Chain of Custody in place? That’s the whole point of it.

Stelios: Yeah, I get it, I get it, I just think that many would just have… and I know it’s not the most amount of money in the world, I just think that, for some people, it is. And it is tough times out there for some people.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And I think, like I said, they’re just gonna say, you know what, it’s 160 quid there, it’s 300 quid there, it’s 400 quid there. I’ve got… you know, it’s not like it’s insurance, and you have to pay insurance. I think these things are all optional. And, you know, a lot of the time, a lot of people bank on the fact that somebody else is doing it.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Yeah? So, for example, how many NFFF members are there? Ooh, I think Andrew said the other week 1400, something like that?

Loren: Mm-hm.

Stelios: Well, everyone else is just banking on the fact that there’s those that pay the bills.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: So, that’s what’s always going to happen. So, in actual fact, by lowering the barrier to entry, you end up getting… it becomes fairer representation, I think.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: Because more people then say, oh, it’s only this much, whatever.

Loren: I know, I agree.

Stelios: It’s just a thought, like, yeah.

Loren: Yeah, and I think that’s what we’ve done with the group certificate, because if… we wouldn’t have these numbers if we were pushing these independent shops to do their own certificate because, you know, £1500 is a lot of money for businesses.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: And we’re trying our best to, you know, make it applicable for all, so that anyone can come into the programme, and I think we’re getting there, you know, working closely with the NFFF. It shouldn’t be, you know, a cost, you know, a barrier. I mean, there’s so many benefits to being certified, you know, it benefits individual businesses and also the UK fish and chip industry, and it also re-ensures your customers as well, because customers, you know, every day they’re thinking, where is my food coming from? And, you know, is it good quality? Is it sustainable? Should I be eating this? And so, yeah, I just think it’s so important to do.

Stelios: Cool. Well, let’s move onto the next topic.

Loren: We shall.

Stelios: ‘Cause I’ll drill you down otherwise and you’ll get bored, and you’re like, yeah. So, policing. You know, it’s not a big deal, this is a very quick one. So, what’s the general feeling, like, if someone’s using your MSC and, it happens, I’m guessing, the logo. What usually happens there? Is it send the big boys in to cease and desist.

Loren: The big boy, i.e. me. I’m very scary.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: Oh, thanks. So, it’s quite hard. We don’t have the capacity to look at every fish and chip shop in the UK and see if they’re using the label.

Stelios: No.

Loren: I mean, if someone said to me, oh, my fish and chip shop’s using the logo, I would be able to tell you that they’re not using the logo.

Stelios: It’s got to be brought to your attention. Yeah.

Loren: Yeah, so, sometimes we do it by chance. I’ve walked past a shop not far from where I live, and I’m like, what have they got that logo doing in the door? Sometimes it’s just by chance.

Stelios: And sometimes they don’t know, I suppose, they don’t know that they’re not allowed to. Or do they, do you think, most times?

Loren: I… uh….

Stelios: Bit of both?

Loren: Bit of both. I mean, they obviously see the benefit in it because they know it’s a good thing, they know it’s the right thing to be doing. So, why wouldn’t you go through the whole process? It’s, you know, I do sometimes think it’s a little bit cheeky. We work with the NFFF on that as well, so if they see a shop using the logo and they shouldn’t be, they’ll pass it onto me. And sometimes we rely on the members as well, so when they’re certified, you know, I’ve had shops saying to me, oh, by the way, there’s a shop down the road that’s saying their MSC certified. Are they? And I’ll be like, no, they’re not.

So, I usually get in contact with them, explain that the MSC is a registered trademark and so is the label, and if you haven’t undergone Chain of Custody or signed a licence agreement, then you can’t use the logo.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: And from there, that hopefully turns conversations around into, have you ever thought about being certified? Do you know the benefits of it?

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: Do you know how easy it is, as well? And, you know, it is quite easy. It’s relatively simple.

Stelios: So, rather than trying to get them to stop using it, although that’s the goal.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: You’re actually trying to get them to become…

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: Yeah. Bit of both.

Loren: So, it’s a bit of education.

Stelios: Yeah, bit of both.

Loren: Because obviously we want them to stop until they’ve got the right things in place.

Stelios: Yeah, of course. Yeah.

Loren: And so we can educate them and say, you know, look, this is something you could be doing, how about we have a chat?

Stelios: Yeah, ’cause one of my mate’s who’s got a shop, they were saying that they’ve got MSC certification, and they love it, and they were saying… but, it annoys them that the shop down the road talks about the fact that they’ve got it, and they haven’t.

Loren: Yes. Well, that’s when they can come to us and say, this is not right, what will you do about it? And we will do something about it, because it completely devalues the programmes for others because all those 124 shops, which have gone through the process, they’ve had to change the way they work sometimes, and they put a big investment into it. Like you said, it’s not cheap, though nor is it majorly expensive, but they put time in, they put money into it, they put admin into it.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: Why would they want someone from down the road to completely discredit what they’ve been doing? And I completely understand their frustration, so, wherever possible, we advise people to come to us and say, you know, be a bit of a snitch witch, it’s fine.

Stelios: And what are the biggest risks that you see to whether it’s the seafood industry, the oceans, what’s your biggest concern, whether it’s personal or it’s the opinion of the MSC, what’s your biggest concerns?

Loren: I mean, first and foremost, our concerns is overfishing. So, reports have shown that overfishing has tripled over the past 40 years.

Stelios: Okay.

Loren: And that’s particularly important considering over one billion rely on fish as their main source of protein.

Stelios: So, when you say overfishing…

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: …are we talking about people…?

Loren: Fishing beyond sustainable, so, you know, we define sustainability as they can continue fishing indefinitely as a level which is manageable and fish stocks remain healthy and, you know, viable. If they’re overfishing, they’re basically taking out more than they should do, and that population can’t keep up, they can’t reproduce in time, so when you do try and go back to fish in that area, there’s probably nothing there because the babies haven’t grown—

Stelios: I always thought that was classed as, like, black fish. That was the terminology for that. Or can you still sell it normally?

Loren: Sell what?

Stelios: When it’s overfished fish, can you still sell it as normal? Just take it to the market and off you go?

Loren: I mean, yeah, there’s some very unsustainable fish on fish markets, but people buy it.

Stelios: Yeah. Course, they won’t know, would they?

Loren: Well, they might know, but they might think it’s tasty.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: I don’t know. You like to… hopefully they don’t know, and if they did know, they won’t buy it.

Stelios: Well, if they’re hungry. So kidding. So, you think the biggest risks are that?

Loren: So, I mean, that’s just one of the risks.

Stelios: Yeah, one of them.

Loren: So, for the MSC, it’s overfishing. In my personal opinion, you’ve got sort of climate change and global warming, so the ocean temperature is rising and that essentially, you know, affects the coral reefs and the ecosystems that live within the ocean, and then you’ve got ocean acidification, so carbon dioxide is being absorbed into the water, and that changes the pH level in the water, and that means coral reefs are dying and ecosystems which live in those coral reefs are also, you know, going extinct as well.

So, I’d say we’ve got overfishing, you’ve got global warming, ocean acidification. There’s a pollution as well, you know, industrial process, they just chuck things into the water and they don’t really care where it goes. You’ve got ships as well, who are dumping, you know, oil spills. And then there’s also the plastics in the ocean. I think we’ve got a lot to worry about, and we’ve got a lot to do to change it as well.

Stelios: Yeah, it sounds like a very bright future there. But, exactly, you’re just aware, you’re just aware of what it is.

Loren: Yeah. I think we all should be, as well. I mean, thank goodness for David Attenborough for bringing the plastics to light, but that was going on years ago and people didn’t realise.

Stelios: Yeah, I just think it’s been lingering for a long time. I think…

Loren: We needed that sort of bang.

Stelios: Yeah, again, we shouldn’t have to need that kick up the bum, but we do, but again, if everyone just… great, if it starts at the top with legislation and it starts at the bottom with just common sense, then it just all works itself out, hopefully.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: But yeah, plastics being dumped in the ocean is just… that’s just ridiculous.

Loren: Yeah, so, when we did our consumer research for consumers, plastics in the ocean is their biggest, you know, threat. They think that’s… they’re concerned about that threat to the ocean. Then there’s overfishing as the second one as well, so I think plastics—

Stelios: Consumers are strange people, though. They worry about something they can’t see, but then throw rubbish out the car.

Loren: Yeah. Lob it out the window.

Stelios: Yeah, the same person that’s afraid of, or worries about the ocean, will fly-tip. So, you know, consumers are strange beings and they do sort of move from one fad to another, but I just think that the oceans and the land should just be sacred, like sacristan.

Loren: I mean, people don’t realise how much we rely on the ocean, you know, for the fishing. It takes in carbon dioxide for us. I think… I don’t know when it’s all going to, you know, come to light, but it’s just about educating people and that’s what I try and do as well in a personal capacity. If my friends, you know, if they’re maybe using a coffee cup, I’m like, maybe just get yourself a reusable one. You know, try and… if you can make the difference… I mean, it’s hard though, because you want to try and do something for the environment, but it needs to be a big group of people.

Stelios: Well, I think it’s worth noting that, again, if you’re at McDonald’s, for arguments sake, and you have a drink, they’ve got a closed loop system, and I think most people would know that they’ve got that sort of system in place because… and same with Starbucks. Anything that gets drunk there and gets recycled there is perfect, because it goes through the system, they get it done right.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: The problem is when people take rubbish home or it enters general waste in the street, and I think that’s half the problem, that people aren’t aware of what happens to rubbish there. That’s my opinion, none of that is fact, it’s just an opinion. So, yeah, I think that everyone could do better collectively, but I think, you know, it all needs to come from the top. So, there’s one question that I didn’t touch on and I hope you don’t mind me bringing it up.

Loren: Go for it.

Stelios: ‘Cause it’s not on the list at all.

Loren: Ooh.

Stelios: But what about… again, if it has to be your opinion, that’s fine. What about mercury? Is that still a thing, or…? Mercury and fish? I read something ages ago and it just keeps regurgitating sometimes round the internet about mercury and fish, like…

Loren: Again, yeah, I’ve read things about that as well, but then it’s also the issue of plastic in fish as well, so when I was at university, my supervisors did a study and it was looking at trophic level transfer of plastics, so he had some mussels in a tank and he was feeding them microplastics. After a certain period of time, he was dissecting the mussel meats, seeing there was plastic in there, but then he was feeding that to crabs, and then eventually…

Stelios: It just keeps going.

Loren: …dissecting the crab meat, and he could find the plastic in the crab meat, which is really scary.

Stelios: That’s a woman problem, I tell you that. I’m not even being sexist. That’s exfoliators. Yeah, men don’t… well, men do use exfoliators now.

Loren: There’s also your plastic as well. Your skin’s looking great, I think you’ve been using something.

Stelios: Bamboo exfolia… listen to me. But I think that’s half the problem sometimes, that a lot of those… and I think, you know, I think facial creams, just like that, toothpaste, they’re all starting to get a lot better now, aren’t they?

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: So, hopefully this microplastics… I think, wasn’t there a motion to ban it all or some…?

Loren: Yeah, I think, you know, I used to use an exfoliator which did have sort of microbeads in it and there’s been a ban put it in place, I think, that there isn’t the plastic microbeads in there now and when I went back to get that exfoliator, I was like, the packaging’s changed, and he goes, yeah, we’ve changed the formula. It’s no longer plastic beads. I was like, oh, thank goodness for that.

Stelios: Yeah, and I think a lot of the time, people do without even… they use it without knowing, you know, and who’s to know? You pick it up, you know it’s good for your skin, and you move on.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: But I think… but you’re right, I didn’t realise that it… well, again, it’s gonna happen. It’s gonna go from species to species, isn’t it? ‘Cause you’ve got predators that eat the prey and off it goes, so it is gonna end up in the larger fish, isn’t it?

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: Yeah, makes sense.

Loren: But it’s scary.

Stelios: Or end up in us at the end, as well.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: Oh, I don’t wanna know about that.

Loren: No, let’s not talk about that one.

Stelios: So, what plans have MSC got in the future? Anything exciting happening that you can talk about yet, or is it all a bit too soon? Anything in the pipeline?

Loren: So, we’re currently going through our fishery standard reviews. We do that every five years. I mentioned to you earlier, we welcome input from stakeholders in industry, it’s like raising concerns or voicing worries, and we take that into account, and that reflects our change in our standards, so we try and keep on top of the time, so it reflects our best practice, essentially.

So, we’re going through that at the moment. In terms of fish & chips, we’re looking to do more tradeshows, you’ll see us about a bit more, which is really exciting, so if you see us, come along and chat to us, and we’re happy to talk about all things sustainable seafood, and working with the NFFF as well to, you know, develop the number of MSC certified chippies and also QA holders as well, because I think that’s… those should be industry standards as well, and I mean, it’s not about saying you do something, it’s about proving you do it as well.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: And backing that up is one that I think is really important.

Stelios: Fantastic. And then, so, tomorrow, as we know, are the Fish and Chip Awards.

Loren: Yes.

Stelios: And how important do you feel they are?

Loren: I think they are wonderful. I mean, so my first awards were last year, the Fish & Chip awards. I didn’t really understand what the hell was going on. I was like, is this a thing? It is a thing, and it should be a thing, and it celebrates all things fish & chips and what a wonderful, amazing dish it is and the wonderful industry that, you know, we get to work in, me and you. And I think it’s a celebration, and it should be. And it’s good to celebrate, you know, people’s practices. The best shops in the UK, the ones that are being the most sustainable, the ones that are using the best quality potatoes, and the most sustainable potatoes, and I think it covers a wide range of… you know, obviously there’s a lot of awards, and I think it should do, and I think people should know about these things more.

Stelios: Yeah, definitely, and I just don’t understand why more people don’t enter every year. I really think more should enter.

Loren: Yeah, because, I mean… you gotta be in it to win it, haven’t you, really?

Stelios: Yeah, definitely.

Loren: I mean, that’s obvious, but last year, out of the 16 awards, 12 of them were MSC certified, so that’s 75%, and I think some chippies have said to us that they think being MSC certified helps them in the awards as well, because it shows to the judges that, you know, we’re doing the right thing and we’re practising the best that we can and proving that we are sustainable with the Chain of Custody in place, so I’m not saying you need to be MSC certified to win, but as an industry standard, it should be something you should consider.

Stelios: Yeah, okay. That’s fair enough.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: And you guys sponsor an award as well?

Loren: We do, so we co-sponsor the Good Catch Award, which is the sustainable sourcing reward, which has completely to do with fish. We co-sponsor that with the Marine Conversation Society, so the other MCS, MMC, I don’t know. So, we co-sponsor them with that, and we had some very, very strong applicants this year, as we have done in the previous years.

Stelios: Are you gonna tell us who won now, because…?

Loren: Uh, no.

Stelios: This will be out in a few days, if you just say congratulations.

Loren: I could do, but I don’t want you to know.

Stelios: Like anybody listens to me.

Loren: You’ll have to check the news.

Stelios: And what does that involve, that award, then? Just, obviously, Chain of Custody is obviously the first prerequisite.

Loren: Yes, so that’s probably one of the key things, and then it’s about how they’re sourcing their seafood, so are they also looking at the MCS guidelines? So, what colour rated their fish is, are they checking sort of the red-rated list? You know, do they know that fish is in a good state at the moment? Do they know how their fish is caught? Is it caught in the certain part of the ocean with a certain gear type? And how they communicate to the customers as well, so are they MSC certified, are they using the label, are they educating their staff, their customers as well?

And one of our new questions this year was talk about plastics. Obviously because the MSC do cover that, and one of the questions was, how are they reducing their single-use plastics within store? And we had some really strong answers and very strong applicants, so it was very tough to judge, but very strong as well. And, you know, the top four shortlisted just reflect the best in the industry and that they really do care about sustainability, but I encourage people to apply for these awards because, you know, think of the PR around it. You’ve worked so hard for it as well, why not celebrate that you’re doing the right thing?

Stelios: No, of course. That makes complete sense. But, like you say, you’ve got to be in it to win it, haven’t you?

Loren: Yeah, and with the Good Catch Award, as well, you know, it’s all a way of promoting fish for future generations, and that’s our vision, is the ocean’s teeming with life, so we want fish for future generations and so should you and Joe down the road as well.

Stelios: I’m conscious of time.

Loren: Oh, am I chatting too much?

Stelios: No, no, no. I just don’t wanna keep you busy, you know, I know you’re busy, so I don’t want to keep you, but I just thought of one question as you were talking.

Loren: Okay.

Stelios: And it’s because, you know, you’re really open and honest and I’m really sort of, like, I’m thinking of things on the fly and…

Loren: Go for it.

Stelios: Is it true that if there is no data on a fish’s abundance, or lack of abundance, that it would automatically be classed as not sustainable?

Loren: If I’m honest, I’m not too sure.

Stelios: And I don’t know if that’s your remit or MCS, I don’t know.

Loren: No, so, I mean, I mentioned earlier, our fisheries improvement projects, and for some of the UK fisheries, they have actions put on them to improve their practices, and one of them is sort of catch data, so obviously our first criteria in the fishery standard is, you know, sustainability, so, are they fishing sustainably? And without that data, then how do you know? So, that data probably is a requirement for our standards.

Stelios: Yeah.

Loren: So, we know how much is in the ocean, ’cause then how can we tell if they’re sustainable? If they’re fishing at a level which is, you know, too quick for the fish to grow up and become big again, then how do we know? So, yeah, we need that sort of data, and the industry works hard to gather that, but it is a hard job and it does take a while.

Stelios: Yeah. It’s not just as easy as going out and having a quick look.

Loren: No.

Stelios: Oh, yeah, there’s quite a few there, look.

Loren: There is quite a few there. It’s very complex. Fishery science is very complex, but I admire the people who do it because, without them, we wouldn’t have the knowledge and the data that we do have today, and all the fisheries that are in the programme.

Stelios: Well, not all heroes wear capes, do they?

Loren: No, exactly.

Stelios: Well, in this case, they probably wear…

Loren: They wear overalls.

Stelios: Overalls, wellies.

Loren: I love a pair of waders, I must add. I feel very comfortable in them.

Stelios: There you go, you see.

Loren: Yeah.

Stelios: Well, look, Loren, I want to wrap this up and, excuse the pun. And I just want to say thanks for your time, thanks for your honesty.

Loren: No worries.

Stelios: I think, you know, we’ve gone through quite a fair bit, and you’ve been really open about everything, and you didn’t say I couldn’t ask anything, and you’ve answered absolutely everything, I think. I can’t see anything on the list that I’ve not asked.

Loren: Well, thanks for having me, I’ve been really excited to do this, and you know, if anyone ever has any questions about MSC, you know, get in contact with us, we’re more than happy to answer any questions.

Stelios: Yeah, and people can follow MSC on Twitter and Facebook and stuff.

Loren: Yeah, so we’re @MSCintheUK, we’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, you know, get us on our website,www.msc.org/uk, that’s our UK focus website. Send us an email, any questions, I’m happy to chat through them with you.

Stelios: Brilliant.

Loren: And long live fish & chips, I say.

Stelios: That’s what I say, too.

Loren: And long live fish.

Stelios: Long live fish. Actually, well… not quite, ’cause you want to eat it.

Loren: Yeah, well, you know what I mean.

Stelios: I know, I get the gist, yeah. Well, thanks, Loren, and we’ll get wrapped up now.

Loren: Brilliant, thanks for having me. See you later.


– Music Exit –

Stelios: Hey everyone, thanks for listening to episode seven. I just want to say one last time, I think she deserves it, I just want to say well done to Loren. She was just really open and honest, and I really appreciate that, even if we weren’t on the right side of the conversation. I think that she had her points and I had mine and, you know, maybe it’ll be good. You know, you guys need to lean in with your opinion now.

I really do think it’d be good to get Loren on in the future and, again, I think that she can keep us updated about the oceans and the topics that they deal with daily. If you could share this podcast with anyone you think that would like it, and whilst you’re there, share it on all social platforms. May as well, hey?

For regular updates, it’s worth subscribing on your favourite podcast channel.

Thank you!