Sustainable Fish City

Bournemouth and Poole is now the World's First Sustainable Fish City (HOORAY!!) and we wanted to make this case study to help you understand how we reached this momentous achievement!

Which of our six Partnership Themes did this project arise from?

Theme 5: Minimising the ecological footprint of our food

What is the background to this project and where are we now?

Scientists have estimated that, at current rates of decline, most of the world's fish stocks could collapse within our lifetimes. Fish stocks can recover though if managed sustainably, and if we stop buying fish from badly managed stocks or fish caught with damaging fishing methods.

Bournemouth and Poole is now recognised as the World’s First Sustainable Fish City, due to the sheer number of businesses and organisations from across the different economic sectors which have signed pledges to ensure only sustainably sourced fish will be used in any of their activities.

What are our plans for the project?

We want to keep soaring upwards! We’ve now generated over 4 million sustainable fish meals a year, and intend to keep signing up more businesses and organisations to continue building on this tremendous achievement. We especially want to sign up more businesses from Poole, to help even out our distribution of pledge signers across Bournemouth and Poole.

How are you going to achieve those plans?

We regularly interact with organisations across Bournemouth and Poole in projects such as our Restaurant Hops or community gardens, or even as members of our Partnership! By constantly approaching new organisations and starting a dialogue with them about their sustainability commitments, we can encourage others to pledge to only use ethical, responsible fish.

The Sustainable Fish Pledges involve 5 steps:

  • Step 1 - State your commitment: Tell your customers and the public that you are developing and implementing a policy on seafood sustainability in your business.
  • Step 2 - Gather information: Assess and monitor the environmental sustainability of the seafood you serve. A free-to-use Sustainable Seafood Audit Template is available at:
  • Step 3 - Source sustainably: Make sustainable seafood choices. This will include:

o Avoiding the worst: Telling your supplier(s) or caterer(s) to remove endangered species from menus and catering – those rated as ‘fish to avoid’ by the Marine Conservation Society:

o Promoting the best: Serving sustainably managed fish – MSC-certified fish, and those rated as ‘fish to eat’ by the Marine Conservation Society:

o Improving the rest: Telling your supplier(s) or caterer(s) you want to serve only sustainable fish – and that there are organisations that can help them to do this, such as Good Catch: and the MSC:

  • Step 4 - Communicate clearly: Spread the message with your customers, supplier(s), caterer, employees and other key stakeholders about seafood sustainability. Invest in Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Chain of Custody certification to enable you to communicate the sustainability of MSC-certified seafood to your customers.
  • Step 5 - Influence wider progress: Support positive change for fish, fisheries and marine resources; using your influence to encourage others to join your seafood sustainability journey and the Sustainable Fish City campaign.

How are you going to measure your successes?

We can measure our success based on not only the number of pledges signed, but also by requesting audits from our pledge signers to ensure their ethical sourcing and get accurate data on all forms of seafood products used and where these products are sourced from. The method by which the fish is caught/farmed, its MCS rating and whether it is eco-labelled are all criteria used in this assessment.

What resources do you have? What materials, money and peoples time (both paid and voluntary) are you using?

Our Sustainable Food City manager, Sarah Watson, spearheaded Bournemouth and Poole’s campaign and continues to work hard to this day to sign up new members and collect audits from existing pledge signers. This status could not have been achieved alone however, but rather the success of the project arose from all the passionate individuals and businesses across the two towns who worked to make their business practises more sustainable.

Who is involved in your project? Who has led your project and which other partners are involved?

Sarah from Sustainable Food City has led the Bournemouth and Poole campaign, but the Sustainable Fish Cities campaign was actually created by Sustain in their Sustainable Fish Cities project. This project includes 16 cities from across the UK, tracking and recognising their efforts towards sustainable fish.

Who has benefited from your project and how?

Our campaign has generated over 4 million sustainable fish meals a year, which may have otherwise come from unsustainable supply lines without this commitment. So our project has benefitted our fisheries by reducing pressure on unsustainable fisheries and improving the economic demand for sustainable fish.

This project has also generated significant publicity, raising the public awareness of what sustainable fish really is, and drawing attention to organisations which are trying to do something good about it.

What are the main elements that have influenced the success of your project and what have your main challenges been?

We have been so successful because so many people are passionate about sustainable food! It is not just restaurants we have to thank but major financial institutions, schools/colleges, hospitals and entertainment venues. Their enthusiasm and commitment allowed us to make excellent progress in signing up organisations, several of whom were already implementing sustainable food policies and our Sustainable Fish Pledges fitted in neatly with their own sustainability commitments.

Has there been any added value from working with the Sustainable Food City Partnership for Bournemouth and Poole?

Without the Sustainable food City Partnership to lead this project, Bournemouth and Poole may never have achieved the status of being a Sustainable Fish City, and very likely would have been beaten to the punch by another city in becoming the World’s First.

The Partnership itself is made up of groups, businesses, organisations and individuals who are passionate about sustainable food, so this network of passionate individuals helped support and raise the awareness of this achievement right from the start.

How would you rate the progress of your project?

Very good progress!

Was this project established prior to the commencement of the Sustainable Food Cities Partnership?

No - not in Bournemouth and Poole

If no, was the Sustainable Food City Partnership instrumental in the establishment of your project?