A fish supply chain can be a highly complex thing! And with so many species and seafood businesses of all scales across Cornwall, and so many actors in the UK and aborad with an interest in purchasing Cornish produce, there are a huge range of supply chains of different lengths and with different purposes.
We’ve interviewed players along the length of the chain to de-mystify each stage and give you a clear picture of how the fish you’re ordering travels from deck to dish.
It all starts at sea, where fishermen work round the clock to bring us an incredibly wide selection of seafood. From gill netters to potters, hand liners to trawls, Cornish fishermen catch around 50 different species of fish and weave diversity into the supply chain from the very beginning.
Working on a variety of vessels with a range of gears, fishermen then land their catch to one of 50 registered landing sites and harbours in Cornwall and then transport their catch to a market or buyer.
Once landed from the vessels, the catch is taken to Newlyn Fish Market: Cornwall’s only live fish auction. The market sells anything landed that day and the night before by a variety of boats, from handline-caught mackerel or tangle-netted crawfish right through to the mixed catch of pelagic fish brought in by the largest beam trawlers.
Newlyn ensures that a continuous supply of fresh Cornish fish and shellfish is running through the supply chain and offers over 50 species on any given day - a diversity which attracts many merchants and buyers who then transport the catch across the UK and into Europe.
In order to purchase fresh fish and shellfish at the first point of sale, merchants are up bright and early for the 6am auction. Buying, dealing with, and transporting large volumes of catch from bigger boats, merchants are vital to supporting the basic infrastructure of the industry; without them, the market, ice, fuel, storage, and much more would not exist. The market caters for a range of needs, hosting big buyers like Trelawney as well as smaller buyers like Dave Seabourne.
After securing their purchase at the market, buyers will take the catch in various directions: to wholesalers, processors, fish shops, restaurants, and the wider supply chain across the UK and into Europe.
Catch is transformed into a valuable, consumable product for retailers by processors, whether by picking brown crab meat or smoking mackerel, filleting hake or making spider crab cakes. Processing is essential to increase the intake of Cornish seafood, as consumer behaviour in the UK suggests a preference for processed seafood products over whole fish and shellfish.
There are many processors in Cornwall offering different products, which are then distributed to large supermarkets like Waitrose and Morrisons.
Fishmongers, who often buy directly from the morning auction, offer fresh, local, and high-quality fish and shellfish straight to the public. With impressive displays and handy cooking tips from the seller, fishmongers are a great way to ensure you are both buying local and cooking excellent fish at home.
The majority of supermarkets also have a fresh fish stand, but they are often poorly stocked with local catch and use loose definitions of the term ‘fresh’, with much of its catch having travelled on the supply chain for a number of days. Supermarket retailers, however, have the highest footfall and the ability to sell high volumes of fish to customers.
Finally, the catch is ready to eat - and it looks delicious! Roast monkfish, smoked haddock arancini, fresh lobster and classic fish and chips are just some of the superb seafood dishes that fill the plates of hungry consumers from across Cornwall, the country and the world.
Whether catching up with a friend, celebrating something special, or simply treating themselves, people gather in restaurants all over Cornwall at mealtimes with a common purpose: to enjoy fine local seafood prepared and presented by the talented hands of our chefs.