Vision is all very well, but you also need a plan and good foundations. For our plan, ‘four steps to change,’ click on ‘objectives’ above. As for our foundations, Pisces Responsible Fish Restaurants uses simple evaluation scales to assess the fish currently used by restaurants, and to evaluate fisheries that attract our interest. We score the quality of the fish, the sustainability of the fisheries and the fairness of the trading relationship between you and your fishermen.

This is not a paper exercise. After making a general assessment, we always go out onto individual boats and document their fishing practices first hand, and see if this results in further adjustments to the score. We always deal directly both with fishers and with restaurants.

In a nutshell, that’s just about it.  Below, in the ‘small print’ we sum up the five point Fish Scales. If you want to know why and how we developed these, and who we work with, click on ‘Site Map’ above and follow the links to ‘In Brief’ and ‘Chapter and Verse’. If that’s more than enough reading, why not have a look at the photo library: the colour and diversity of UK coastal and inshore fisheries is really quite astounding.


In a nutshell

Fish Scales

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In a nutshell

How we evaluate fish quality

We score quality on a five point scale. Quality is partly a value judgement, and we prefer to trust in the judgement and feedback of our chefs:

  1. Bullet1. Worst …inedible.

  2. +2. Poor … colour of skin, eyes etc. dramatically different from fresh, or artificially enhanced. Distinct and strong smell of fish. Texture changed dramatically (e.g by freezing and defrosting). Not possible to eat raw. Typical of much supermarket packed fish;

  3. Bullet3. Transitional … some change in colour. Very slight smell of fish. Texture changed slightly. Unpleasant to eat raw. Typical of best fresh supermarket fish, or freshly landed multi-day boats with less than best practice handling at sea;

  4. Bullet4. Good … no change in colour, perhaps marginal damage to fish during capture. Odour and taste enjoyable, pleasant when eaten raw. Either unfrozen or blast frozen and defrosted in ideal circumstances;

  5. Bullet5. Best – (on  a global scale) perfect in every way - less than 24 hours from capture to delivery to restaurant and then to plate or (e.g. sole) matured under control of chef in perfect conditions.

How we evaluate the sustainability of fisheries

Pisces-RFR searches for better, more sustainable, fisheries by evaluating three aspects: the state of the stocks landed for consumption; the proportion discarded (i.e how selective the fishery is); and the wider environmental impact (i.e. habitat impact, fuel consumption etc.). All three of these are assessed on a five-point scale from worst to best practice. We do not merge or average these scores.

For UK fisheries the evaluation involves three steps First, we review data from the body responsible for providing regional stock assessments; then we gather information on local stock conditions from a variety of sources; last, we go out onto individual boats and document their practices, and see if this results in further adjustments.

The fish currently in a restaurant's portfolio may come from anywhere in the world. For these we carry out the first and second steps above, where possible, or give them scores of 1 where it is not possible without excessive effort.

Scale to evaluate stocks status 

  1. Bullet1. Worst practice: fishing on a stock that is at increasing risk of collapse; where there is no management plan or targets; or where the information is inaccessible.

  2. Bullet2. Poor: fishing a depleted stock - although not one believed to be in danger of collapse - where no positive targets have been set.

  3. Bullet3. Transitional: the stock is depleted, but positive targets for the stock have been set, including its wider impact, and there is a credible plan for how to get there, although at an early stage of implementation.

  4. Bullet4. Good: where the stocks are growing, and positive targets have been set as part of a credible management plan.

  5. Bullet5. Best practice: the goal - big stocks, large catches and plenty left for the needs of other species.

Scale to evaluate selectivity

  1. Bullet1. Worst practice: unselective; highly detrimental to discarded species;

  2. Bullet2. Poor: potentially significant impact on discarded species, although none believed to be in danger of local extinction. No credible remedial measures have been set;

  3. Bullet3. Transitional: discarded species are of concern, but credible remedial measures have been implemented, although at an early stage to judge results;

  4. Bullet4. Good: discards low, positive measures (if necessary) have been successfully implemented as part of a credible management plan. There may be some discards, widely believed to have minor significance, but subject to monitoring;

  5. Bullet5. Best practice: the goal: catches only fish intended for landing.

Scale to evaluate wider environmental impacts

When Pisces-RFR evaluates a fishery, the wider environmental impacts range from the effect on fish and other species that would have eaten the caught fish, the physical effect on the environment, such as seabed habitats, as well as wider issues such as fuel use.  These are varied and not necessarily ‘average-able’: each fishery has to be broadly assessed and reasons for the score explained.

  1. Bullet1. Worst practice: major effects threatening the existence in the area of one or more species. Fishing methods the worst option in terms of wider global footprint;

  2. Bullet2. Poor: possibly significant marine environmental effects. Wider footprint neither worst or best of class. No corrective measures agreed;

  3. Bullet3. Transitional: possibly significant environmental effects. Wider footprint neither worst or best of class. Credible corrective measures have been applied, but at an early stage of implementation;

  4. Bullet4. Good: marine environmental effects widely regarded as acceptable, and regularly checked. Wider footprint good.  Open to further improvements;

  5. Bullet5. Best practice: the goal: the fishery co-exists with other species and habitats in good condition, and is a model low impact fishery in terms of its wider global footprint.

Scale to evaluate fairness

We assess the fairness of our trading relationship with fishers: this reflects how the fishermen assess restaurants.

  1. Bullet1. Worst: restaurants have no link and no knowledge of who caught the fish, their working conditions, or pay.

  2. Bullet2. Poor: restaurants have a broad idea of working conditions and remuneration in the fleet, but no specific knowledge of the fishermen who caught our fish. This would be a fairly typical situation.

  3. Bullet3. Transitional: in direct contact with fishermen catching our fish. There is room for improvement, so that they get a financial reward for introducing measures we would like, such as using ice as fish are brought on deck. But change can depend on others, for example, when an established supply chain is involved.

  4. Bullet4. Good: fishermen and restaurants generally happy with their trading relationship, and in control of the terms of that relationship. Ongoing work on what might be done to make it even better.

  5. Bullet5. Best: fishermen and restaurants very happy with a well established trading relationship that provides security to both parties and allows for forward planning. Seen as a model by others.