sustainable fish airport heathrow with fish image

AUTHOR: TOM TANNER

Remember the award-winning 90s advertisement for a famous brand of stout with a fish on a bicycle? Like a fish needs a bicycle, as they say. Equally, you might ask how much a fish needs an airport. Not much you wouldn’t think. Well, this World Oceans Day we’re going to smash that misconception.

Today Heathrow has been crowned the world’s first Sustainable Fish Airport. The 80 million passengers who travel through Europe’s largest airport can, from June 2020, tuck into any of the more than 20 fish species served on site safe in the knowledge that it’s sustainably sourced.

It’s the culmination of months of hard work involving Sustain, the Alliance for Better Food and Farming, the SRA and of course the airport and its restaurant and café tenants. Thirty-seven of them have signed the pledge to say that they have agreed to remove red-rated fish (in almost all cases they have removed red-rated fish already), and promote the best choices of seafood to customers, and also to have a policy to make sure this continues into the future. Check out a list of all the businesses that have pledged here.

Before signing the pledge, businesses reviewed all their fish buying, finding out the exact species, and where and how all their fish products were fished or farmed. Then, all took at least one significant action towards sustainable fish and crucially, this included removing red-rated fish (as rated by the Marine Conservation Society – MCS), if any is was the menu. In cases where it is not possible to remove a product immediately (because menus have already been printed), partners have committed to removing unsustainable products at the next menu change.

With 4 million seafood meals sold every year across the five terminals the impact is potentially massive. businesses have worked to source from more plentiful stocks, more responsible farms, or caught by pole-and-line, a less destructive fishing method.

Some of the big brands involved in the initiative have used the opportunity to review their seafood supply chain across the whole business. YO! for example jumped at the chance to align with Heathrow’s initiative and has used the opportunity to make further improvements to the supply chain, across the whole the 71-site restaurant group.

Charlotte Whalley, Head of Customer Experience at YO!, said: “Ever since we opened our first YO! more than 20 years ago, we’ve been committed to serving only responsibly sourced fish and seafood. It’s wonderful to be part of a community of like-minded businesses at Heathrow: Sustainable Fish Airport, dedicated to preserving the future of our oceans.”

Equally, another household name, Carluccio’s has introduced the public to some less well-known sustainable British seafood including clams, mussels and crab.

The project is the latest chapter in the SRA’s work with Heathrow, and it recognises of the importance of biodiversity loss – thriving marine ecosystems are vital for preventing climate change.

As Ruth Westcott, Co-ordinator of the Sustainable Fish Airports campaign, said: “Heathrow have proven that airports can be a catalyst for change, and I look forward to the next airport that will step up to the plate and become leaders in tackling overfishing.”

Her thoughts were echoed by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: “Taking red-listed fish off the menu in its restaurants is a great way of signalling to the world’s travellers that fishing sustainably is a vital part of looking after our oceans. This bold move sets an agenda that other airports and business hubs will surely want to follow.”

Heathrow is certainly the first Sustainable Fish Airport, but joins a growing group of organisations, shops, fish suppliers, restaurants, caterers, schools, universities and colleges, large employers and tourist attractions across the UK collectively serving well over 200 million meals a year. Now that’s something worth raising a glass of the black stuff too this World Oceans Day.