The Package Free Larder interior. 76 Elm Grove, Southsea, Portsmouth.
A conversation with Abi Taylor from Wild Harbour
by Blue Fletcher/1oth-October-2020
So, do you want to give us an insight into how Wild Harbour started?
Yeah absolutely. I come from a fishing family, my dad was a deep-sea fisherman and worked out of Newlyn. My partner at the time, when we started Wild Harbour, was also a member of the under-10 fleet and had a small boat. Really the reason Wild Harbour started was more from the perspective of the fishermen, we wanted to provide an outlet that was direct to restaurants. To be able to sell this amazing product that we could see all the local dayboat fisherman and catching, that we felt wasn’t really being appreciated at the market at the time. So we started really, really small and it was just a couple of dayboat guys we were taking their fish and finding homes for it in the restaurants and it just snowballed from there really.
Wow, I know you are a very sustainable business. So can you give us an example of one of your sustainable practices and why are you think they’re so important to maintain?
I think the sustainability side of things actually, was almost part of our ethos without us really knowing about it when we began. Because what we were doing was so sustainable, we were sorting line-caught, dayboat fish, which is obviously caught on a much smaller scale. So, you know, it’s not the sea being torn apart by big trawlers, or things like that. That gradually grew, and as the business grew we sort of looked for other sustainable things that we could incorporate.
One of the things that we do at the moment is, obviously we prep our fish, and we end up w.ith a waste product. That goes off to for two things: so some of our local lobster guys use it as a pot baits, so it get recycled back into the sea and goes towards catching things like lobster and so on. And another part of it, we also send to a waste recycling plant that actually makes it into this blood, fish and bone fertiliser. That then goes on to farmers fields, and so on
So we try in all sorts of things to look for things like that, that we can do that just make things a little bit more sustainable.
That’s so interesting you say that, because I would’ve never thought that the outcome of all of your waste would turn into fertiliser, that’s just so clever.
Yeah and it’s great because it goes into another industry. It goes to the farming industry and things that they do, but again, it’s all kind of local and it’s kept in Cornwall. I really love that, making something out of nothing.
It’s a great practice.
Abi Taylor from Wild Harbour
You’ve partly answered this in the previous one. But did you always set out to be a sustainable business from the get-go, or has it kind of a developed more overtime?
Yeah again, I think the sustainability side of things definitely came from the fact that we were buying from those day boats fisherman. But again, over time it’s become more and more and more a part of our ethos, and more and more part of it important to us as a company. And we are always looking at ways to try and make things better and more sustainable, and more environmentally friendly because at the end of the day you know that’s key for all of us, isn’t it.
Yeah, it’s definitely going to be a way of the future. I think a lot of businesses, hopefully, will at least start to change and turn a bit more sustainable.
I know a big priority for you is educating your customers and seasonal variation. So for the people who don’t know much about this, can you tell them what it is and why it’s such a significant consideration?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think what a lot of people don’t understand about the fishing industry or fishing in general, is that every species of fish has a season.
So although yes, they’re all swimming around in the sea all the time. It’s very much like tomatoes, we get them in the summertime, the root vegetables we get in the wintertime.
Fish species are exactly the same, there are certain times of the year that they are more plentiful, they’re perhaps in better condition because they’re not spawning and so on. Its really key that people eat those fish at the right times of the year, because that’s the most sustainable time for the fishermen to harvest them.
We want to try and avoid times where the fish might be spawning, so we’re not interfering with the natural law of things. So we’re getting them and were also not targeting juvenile fish, that haven’t had a chance to spawn and so on. So it’s really important that people understand that seasonality, and that their purchasing the right fish at the right time because that’s when it’s best quality as well. It’s a whole host of things but trying to source something out of season is just really difficult. The fish isn’t going to be at its best and it may not be the best time, to do with spawning and so, I want to be looking at fish like that. We do try really hard to educate all of our customers about that, and the best time to get the fish that they’re after. There’s also lots of other species that are similar, that can be used in place of something else. Lesser-known varieties perhaps like Cowley for instance, which is really similar to Pollock and Cod. It’s a really good alternative to those fish and it doesn’t always need to be the same fish all the time.
And I can imagine that if you don’t have to pay so much for the fish to get transported over, you know from different places where it is in good season. It’s probably more expensive surely for customers to be buying out of season fish, rather than seasonal, am I correct in saying that?
Yeah, absolutely, of course. If you’ve got something that’s in season, its going to be plentiful and that’s going to bring the price down naturally because there’s a lot of it about. It just makes sense all around really, financially and from a sustainable point of view as well.
And I know you sell direct to Michelin star chef’s, but you also have this new ‘Coast to Home’ boxes, which look really, really good by the way. What was the inspiration behind this?
So our ‘Coast to Home’ boxes were actually born out of the COVID pandemic. Obviously, we supply into restaurants and that, for us works really well. We’d never really looked at the retail side before, to the general public. But obviously, times were tough, we were closed for three months, it was a scary time for us. So one of the things I wanted to look at was being able to offer this amazing day-boat fish to everyone, and have a way of getting that out to them. So ‘Coast to Home’ is a relatively new venture for us, it’s really, really exciting. The feedback that we’ve had from people that have had our fish has just been overwhelming, we’re so pleased and it’s a great way to have sustainable and seasonal fish delivered straight to your door. Basically, our guys are handpicking what’s in now and what’s good now, we’re putting a selection of that together and it goes out in our little ‘Coast to Home’ boxes. So yeah it’s fab, it’s really exciting.
And it’s not only just in Cornwall, it’s across the whole of the UK, am I right?
Yeah, absolutely. We deliver nationwide, so anywhere in the UK, yep, were available for day-boat fish delivery.
Above images; Local fish caught from around Cornwall. Flat fish Dab. Lobster caught from pots.
Sounds amazing. How much do you think that the transparency of the business matters, especially within the hospitality sector?
I think it’s really important. One of the things for us was all of the side-effects of buying from day boat fisherman, was we knew exactly where all of our fish had come from.
We really wanted to pass that on to the customer, give them that information and explain that, you know, your mackerel has been caught by Simon, on Hope. This is a really small boat, it’s one guy, he goes out in the morning, comes back in the afternoon. You know this is him, this is the guy that caught your fish.
For us I think back in 2012 I don’t think there was a lot of transparency in the industry as a whole. I think that people didn’t really understand that and the ability to know where their fish was coming from. So again, although it was something that we kind of did from the get-go, as we’ve gone along, what we realised is that people are really keen to know where their fish has come from, and how it’s been caught and how it’s been kept. So for us, that’s always been a key part of our ethos and I think it’s kind of spreading. I think people want to know that information now, they’re much more interested. So we’ve always been more than happy to give them all of that information. If you place an order with us, it actually goes out on your invoice. So every fish that we have, it lists the boat name and the PLN, which is the ports letters and numbers. So you know, literally exactly which boat your fish has come from. We do that for every customer and every order.
Such a clever idea because I can imagine it makes the food taste even better when you’re sat there and you know exactly who caught it, who has put all the effort in.
That’s right and I think when they’re only small boats as well. I think people are blown away, that some of these boats are tiny. They’re going out and catching these amazing fish and I think that sometimes lost a little bit. So it’s nice to be able to put that forward and let people understand how it works.
Well thank you so much for coming on the podcast today, do you want to tell everyone where they can find you online?
Yeah absolutely, so we are at www.wildharbour.co.uk.