Photo of Kernowsashimi founder Chris Bean by Harry Cory Wright
The award for best UK Supplier of the Year at The Ocean Awards was open to any British suppliers who could meet the criteria of being a seafood supplier that has shown the most consistent, well-communicated and far-reaching commitment to sustainable sourcing. The winner was Kernowsashimi.
Cornish fisherman Chris Bean was 11 when he built his first boat and decided to go to sea. The son of a cabinetmaker (who helped him draw up the plans), he used to sail it up the Helford River, catching bass and bream. He soon realised there was money to be made from selling his catch to a local fishmonger – “more than from picking potatoes or turnips on a local farm,” he says – and throughout his adolescence this was how he earned his pocket money.
He then made a career out of it and, more than 40 years on, he is not only still fishing but runs Kernowsashimi, a family business that supplies quality, sustainable fish: familiar species such as haddock, mackerel, whiting, red mullet and crab along with less familiar kinds such as lesser-spotted dogfish, wrasse and gurnard (of the four types, he says, “streaked, which are wider on the shoulders and have soft fins, are the most delicious”), dab and pouting. “You can find a market for anything,” he says. “It’s all protein. And everything has a value.”
The idea came from his Japanese daughter-in-law, Mutsuko. “She was the prime mover,” he says, and Mutsuko remains integral to the business, as do his son and daughter. “She said people would pay extra money for fish of the quality we were catching if we sold it into a niche market. My mother said to me if you take fish from the sea and put it on your plate, then you eat it; you don’t waste it. It’s silly to throw things back that might have a market value. So whatever we catch now, we use.
We don’t put anything back except for protected species, which we’re legally bound to throw back. About 70 or 80 per cent of the fish comes aboard the boat live so it survives.” He also takes care to use “static gear so we’re not disrupting the substrate or environment”, and large meshes, so they catch only mature fish that have had time to breed.
Among the restaurants Kernowsashimi supplies are several in London, notably the two Michelin-star Japanese restaurant Umu in Mayfair, Moshi Moshi, and Riverford at the Duke of Cambridge, in Islington, Britain’s first and only organic pub.
Bean has teamed up with the Riverford Field Kitchen and, from January 2015, has been holding a fish masterclass every Friday, to teach people how to cook the fish he caught that day – particularly the less popular species – and to educate them in the ways of sustainable fishing.
Highly commended — Catchbox
For – its work, as a not-for-profit co-operative or “community supported fishery” run by unpaid volunteers, with small fishermen who use responsible methods to supply individual consumers on England’s South Coast with weekly boxes of fresh, local, responsibly sourced fish. “This is a scheme that cuts out the middle man and puts you, the fish eater, directly in touch with the fishermen in your local harbour,” says The Oceans Award judge Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Highly commended — Direct Seafoods
For – sourcing fresh fish responsibly and promoting the most sustainable products available. This wholesale seafood and fish supplier also provides comprehensive information on its website relating to the sustainability of fish species.