Raymond Blanc takes endangered fish species off the menu

Growing demand from customers prompts Michelin-starred chef to challenge competitors to follow his lead on sustainable fishing
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Both are Michelin-starred restaurants with world-famous chefs. But there the similarity ends. Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, which is owned by Raymond Blanc, has thrown the spotlight back on the sushi chain Nobu's refusal to stop serving endangered species of fish by becoming the first high-end restaurant to offer diners sustainable seafood approved by the environmental charity Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Growing consumer demand for guilt-free fish dishes is putting pressure on restaurants to overhaul their sourcing policies – and to tell their customers about it. In a first for a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Manoir's menus feature the MSC logo, which means diners can opt for dishes made with Dover sole or mackerel without having to worry about where it has come from.

Blanc called for other restaurateurs to follow his lead, adding: "By supporting MSC, I am ensuring that, as a chef, I am helping to ensure that fish stocks will be replenished for generations to come." His decision to serve certifiably sustainable seafood is in stark contrast to Nobu Matsuhisa, who has snubbed calls to take bluefin tuna off the menus at his world-renowned chain, despite evidence that it is being fished to extinction. A host of celebrities including Stephen Fry, Jemima Khan, Elle Macpherson and Sienna Miller are boycotting the sushi chain, previously a favoured A-list haunt, in protest.

Yesterday Nobu London's head chef, Hari Shetty, defended the restaurant's choice to keep serving bluefin tuna. "It's legally available and it's in demand, so there's no reason not to sell it." He said he was not aware of the MSC certification scheme, but added that the restaurant did sell sustainable fish.

Restaurants have lagged behind supermarkets in promoting sustainable seafood, with just a handful serving MSC-certified fish. But a new government-funded push from the MSC, which certifies fisheries catching well-sourced fish, hopes to change that. Laura Stewart, MSC's food service manager, said its "MSC on the Menu campaign would help to give people eating out the same wide choice of MSC-labelled seafood they can have when cooking at home".

The London-based Feng Sushi chain, which has six outlets, will also feature the MSC logo on its menus from later this summer. Silla Bjerrum, the chain's managing director, said: "Awareness of MSC-certified fish has increased dramatically in the last couple of months. We will source 100 per cent sustainable fish by September, and using the MSC logo is a good way to tell customers about that."

The plight of overfished species has grabbed the public's attention in recent weeks, helped by a new film dubbed the "Inconvenient Truth of the oceans" at the Sundance film festival. The End of the Line, based on a book by Charles Clover, highlights the effect of over-fishing, which means just eight of the 47 fish stocks around the UK are in a healthy state, with a possible worldwide fishery collapse by 2048 on the cards unless species under threat are left alone. Other initiatives to help focus attention on the problem include a poster campaign starring the film star Greta Scacchi, who has posed nude, except for a dead cod (left), for a series of photos by the photographer Rankin.

MSC, which has just received a £400,000 grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, hopes, in addition to restaurants, that in-house and contract caterers, as well as school, university and office canteens, will start serving sustainable seafood. Ms Stewart said she hoped this project would help to encourage new UK fisheries to seek MSC certification. Every year the number of fisheries on MSC's scheme increases by 50 per cent and the amount of certified fish on the market now accounts for about 20 per cent of the total wild catch.

Willie Mackenzie, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace, said: "The sustainable sourcing of seafood is not only desirable, but essential for chefs and restaurants – it's the only way to ensure the supply of the very thing their businesses depend on."

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