In fulfilling its remit to source fresh ingredients locally where possible, caterers Leith’s at Glyndebourne support many small producers and businesses. One such local supplier is Brighton & Newhaven Fish Sales (BNFS). Karen Anderson spoke to their Director Kier Foster about sustainable fishing along the south coast and the importance of the Glyndebourne contract to their business.
Part of what makes Glyndebourne special is its location. As well as offering an inspirational setting for audiences and artists, this corner of Sussex is home to some outstanding local food producers – and being only ten miles from the sea has substantial benefits. If you order cod, sole, lobster, monkfish or mackerel from a Leith’s restaurant menu this summer it has been caught by one of BNFS’s fleet of small day boats.
Kier Foster notes that their contract with Leith’s ‘is a big thing for us.’ Having secured the contract three years ago ‘we take a lot of care to ensure the fish we supply is of the best quality. We’ve worked with Julian Wilson [Leith’s Regional Executive Chef] for many years in different venues so we discuss the menus with him, and have a great relationship.’
Based in Shoreham Harbour, BNFS fish along the south coast from Selsey (near Portsmouth) to Eastbourne, employs 51 permanent staff and about 150-200 fishermen and women each week on their own boats. Foster notes ‘we are a mixed fishery which means we catch over 30 different species of fish in our waters and 90 per cent of the boats are owner-operated. The fleet is made up of small inshore dayboats that land their catch within hours of capture, ensuring the fish is fresh and of the highest quality.’
However, this clear and simple business model took a bit of effort and blue-sky thinking to establish. Back in the late 1970s the company was set up by Peter Leach, whose family had been catching and selling fish in Brighton for over 50 years. When his wife won the football pools they were able to buy their own boat and finally work for themselves. But, as Foster explains, ‘Peter was unhappy with the price he was getting for his catch and believed he could improve the situation for himself, his friends and fellow fishermen. He realised he could get a better price for the fish if he had various avenues across the UK and Europe to sell fish to, he persuaded others by guaranteeing them a better price for each catch which created the very first fish market on the Sussex coast.’
He was quickly successful and the business grew because it was dedicated to quality and service. Foster notes ‘The business has come a long way since the start. Now all the fish landed by our fleet is sorted, electronically graded and weighed, before it is offered for sale to our clients. This dedication to quality has helped build our reputation locally and nationally.’ As has BNFS’s adherence to quotas and sustainability as Foster adds: ‘Sustainability is defined as the practice of ensuring the needs of today do not jeopardise or deplete the resources for the future. There are numerous rules and regulations managing the fishing industry aimed at achieving a sustainable future; one such example being quotas and catch limits set by the European Union in accordance with scientific evidence. Fish caught compliant with these regulations is deemed sustainable. We are able to give our clients a guaranteed provenance that all fish purchased is caught within the quota limits set by the EU and is therefore sustainable and this enables us to guarantee the provenance of our products which is fairly unique in our industry.’