A trip to northeast Scotland to sea how it’s all done

Posted by Amy Grimwood, Mr C’s in Selby, Yorkshire on 16 December 2014

As part of the 2015 National Fish & Chip Awards, Seafish in partnership with Seafood Scotland recently invited myself and the other five finalists in the Young Fish Frier of the Year Award (along with finalist businesses in the Best Newcomer Award) on a study trip visit to the northeast of Scotland, to experience first hand the country's fishing and processing industries. 

Reaching the final of the Young Fish Frier of the Year Award for the second time has been really exciting, and I was overwhelmed and thrilled to have done so well this year against such stiff competition for this prestigious award.

Being invited to visit Scotland again was a big bonus, and I set out earlier this month hoping to gain an even better understanding of the 'tough' side of the industry that often doesn't receive the credit it truly deserves. The trip was really well organised and planned, and the day and a half we spent there was packed with so much to see and learn.  It started with a splendid seafood dinner at the Buchan Braes Hotel in Boddam just south of Peterhead, where we were joined by a number of local fishermen and fish processors, who made sure there was plenty of lively conversation around the dinner table.  The meal gave all the finalists a great opportunity to network and meet new people.

Amy Grimwood

Early the following morning, we visited Peterhead Fish Market which had boxes full of the freshest fish stretching as far as you could see.  The 'shout' auction was a real eye opener and a dynamic place to be. We watched fish sellers and buyers reaching deals and were amazed at the huge array of species for sale.

Watching the sale of 1,000 boxes of the finest quality haddock from the Ocean Venture was exciting, as we had met the vessel's skipper, John Buchan Snr at dinner the evening before, and he explained in detail what was happening. 

The next stops for our group were visits to two leading fish processing sites, Sustainable Seafoods in Peterhead and Nolan Seafoods in Aberdeen, where we gained a real insight into the hard work, skill, and care and attention that goes into filleting and preparing fish for onward sale. It was great to see and meet a group of people so clearly passionate about the seafood industry and dedicated to their work.

I learnt that the people involved in catching and processing our fish play a huge and important part in the supply chain process - activities that often go unsung. They are certainly undervalued by a lot of us in the fish and chip trade, who are perhaps naive as to what goes on before our fish arrives at the doors of our own businesses.

We met fishermen who risk their lives every day, and filleters like 'Elvis', who now at the age of 71, has been doing his filleting job for 50 years, and has a real dedication to ensuring that his filleted fish are of the highest quality . I also learned that the highly prized monkfish is also often known as the angler fish and that the fish uses a lure type appendage on its head to catch their prey and that not long ago, monkfish were considered only good enough for cats to eat!

From my visit to northeast Scotland I have taken back to my customers, a sound understanding of what happens after each and every fish is caught. I can tell them what happens from the time the fish comes out of the water, to when it hits their plates. I also have an amazing video of 'Elvis the filleter' that shows just how skilled these people are!

A huge thank you to both Seafood Scotland and Seafish for opening my eyes to the journey that fish from Scotland takes en route to the consumer. Fish fillets will never be the same again!