A trip of a lifetime

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Geoff Whitehead NSC Norway trip

Geoff Whitehead, owner of Whiteheads Fish & Chips in Hornsea, Yorkshire, joined National Fish & Chip Award category winners on a study trip to Ålesund, Norway, earlier this year to learn how the seafood nation’s whitefish ends up on UK plates

I come from a fishing background: when I first left school, I went to sea working for my father and my brother so I have a general idea of what, when and how fish is caught. Or so I thought I did!

When I got over to Norway, it absolutely blew me away. We went onboard a frozen at sea long-liner, Atlantic, which can spend months at a time at sea catching the sustainable Norwegian cod and haddock that fish and chip shops in the UK rely upon. The technology onboard is out of this world, I’ve never seen so many screens! The crew utilise sonar technology to make fishing as efficient and as sustainable as possible, hunting for the best fishing grounds, and identifying how much fish is there and what size they are.

The vessel we were onboard processed H&G (headed and gutted) and the speed at which the fish was brought onboard, headed, gutted, filleted and frozen was something else. It was all processed within two to three hours so it’s fresh, really fresh. The product the Norwegians produce is beautiful and I’ve got nothing but admiration for the way they do things.

Whilst onboard the Atlantic, we got to see the staff quarters, which include a gym and a sauna, but what impressed me the most was the fact that all the water for showering, drinking and cooking, isn’t stored in tanks like most fishing vessels, it’s saltwater taken from the sea and put through a filter system. It was more like a cruise ship than a fishing boat; the welfare of Norwegian fishermen is clearly prioritised.

We also visited Brødrene Sperre, a land-based fish processing factory and, again, the speed at which they process fish is phenomenal. Once offloaded onto the dockside, the fish is transferred directly through a pipe to the production line, packaged and distributed. They were doing something like 500 tonnes an hour!

Seeing the whole process from start to finish, how sustainably and efficiently Norwegian cod and haddock are caught and processed, has been an education for me. Even I didn’t realise what goes into putting fish on a plate. But now I am able to transfer what I have learnt to our customers and that’s really important because it helps them understand the premium product we serve, the prices we charge and the care we go to. Serving incredible fish and chips is not as simple as people think. It relies on a huge, amazing industry all working together to deliver the best possible product.

I’d like to thank the Norwegian Seafood Council for organising the trip. I met some fantastic people, wonderful operators and amazing fishermen. It was the educational trip of a lifetime and I have memories I will treasure.

Norwegian Seafood Council www.seafoodfromnorway.co.uk

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