Slow Fish Barbados Director Nikola Simpson recently spent a busy but productive few days at Slow Fish 2017 from May 18-21 representing Slow Food Barbados and Slow Fish Caribe at the biennial event held in Porto Antico, Genoa, Italy.

Not only the birthplace of Christopher Columbus but also pesto, the Vespa and the introduction of the lotto, Genoa is the city that jeans were named after. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Genoa is also home to Italy’s oldest surviving football club and one of the busiest ports in Europe. Its’ maritime setting is an integral part of its charm and is the location of the biennial Slow Fish Event. The international event celebrates sustainable seafood through its dedication to fish and marine resources, combining the pleasure of eating with good fishing practices, scientific knowledge, taste education and the protection of biodiversity.

Porto Antico in Genoa, Italy

Slow Fish is a Slow Food Campaign on understanding the oceans. It promotes artisanal fishing and responsible fish consumption. This international campaign aims to inform and educate people about the journey and complexities of fishing so that consumers can make more informed choices and widen their choices beyond the most popular – and often overfished species. It also helps to provide local solutions to support better management of marine resources.

Slow Fish 2017

Not only pesto, pasta and pizza but also many other tastes, sights and sounds filled the atmosphere at Slow Fish 2017. Porto Antico became a bustling area filled with aromas and experiences of good, clean and fair as well as a hub for small – scale fishers, chefs, academics, representatives of public bodies and enthusiasts from over 15 countries. The discussion focused on sustainable fishing and production, responsible fish consumption and the health of marine and freshwater ecosystems. This unique event included a large market, conferences, meetings, workshops and tasting sessions and events entirely dedicated to the world of fish.

The theme of Slow Fish 2017 was: We are the Net (revealing the invisible) in which we must realize that we are all part of a living, interconnected system, and that we act upon this net when we buy seafood products. The Slow Fish network focuses attention on the need for fishing methods that operate in harmony with the delicate ties of the net which is more than a fishing tool, but also a web of relations: water, soil, microorganisms, fish, fishermen and consumers.

Know Your Fisherfolk!

Slow Fish Caribe/Caribbean aims at strengthening patterns of conservation and sustainable livelihoods in protected areas in the Caribbean and promotes the conservation of biodiversity of the Caribbean coastal ecosystems and coral reefs, consolidating good practices for the sustainable use of food resources.

During my time at Slow Fish 2017 as part of the Slow Fish Caribe delegation, I conducted two presentations on an overview of Barbadian fisheries, the work of Slow Food and Slow Fish Barbados as well as the invasive lionfish species. I also took part in a variety of other sessions, workshops and tours.

Nikola Simpson at Slow Fish in Genoa, Italy
Nikola Simpson at Slow Fish in Genoa, Italy

Within the Caribbean network, we all came together and highlighted similar issues facing fisheries in the region including overfishing, anthropogenic impacts such as increased coastal development resulting in habitat loss as well as plastic pollution. The impacts of the environment including hurricanes and the introduction of native species were also voiced as problems facing fisheries in the Caribbean. The need for greater management including enhanced fisheries legislation and enforcement is also a key area that needs work.

My brain was working extra hard during the trip as much of my correspondence with the rest of the Slow Fish Caribe delegation was in Spanish as all other members were Spanish speaking. We also practiced a little Italian.

One of the events that interested me the most was how to select Good, Clean and Fair fish.

It began with an opening remark that is becoming all too familiar: “If things continue the way they are now, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050. Here’s why each of our choices makes a big difference: we must decide between a slow but virtuous path towards sustainability, or disaster”.

During this event, three key tips to recognizing “good” fish were the duration of the product’s life cycle, the fishing method used, and its diffusion. Each one of us, through conscious and informed choices, can contribute to a better future for the sea.

With regards to the average life cycle of a fish, it is important to note that a fish that lives for a long time has more harmful substances accumulated in its flesh than a fish with a shorter life cycle. For this reason, it was suggested to consume species such as anchovies, mullet or sardines – species that live a short life. In the case of Barbados….

Fishing techniques – the methods in which fish were caught should also guide our seafood choices. For example, a fish caught with trawlers by industrial ships will be more harmful to nature compared to fish caught by small-scale fishermen who know the territory and want to maintain healthy stocks. As a consumer try to choose local products that come from local fishermen.

At Slow Fish Barbados, we also encourage you to make sustainable choices and think of the journey of your fish from bait to plate. Where does your fish come from? Most people when asked this question would respond with the supermarket or fish market but chances are most of the fish you eat has been imported and had a long journey before reaching your plate. Next time you are buying fish, get to know your local fisherfolk and ask questions.

We recommend lionfish as the most sustainable fish choice.

Overall I had a great experience at Slow Fish 2017. The event ended with the Eat In – a zero waste social dinner where food that would otherwise have gone to waste was transformed into a delicious buffet which embodied the philosophy of Slow Food.

The Eat In showed that what once was waste could become a tasty, satisfying meal and also encouraged people to appreciate the social aspect of preparing as well as eating food together. It was also a great way for people to come into first contact with Slow Food: not as some elitist club, but an open table for everyone.

The 2017 edition of Slow Fish saw the participation of the scientific community and the fishers of the Terra Madre network with over 500 people working together with 50 volunteers, 80 delegates and food communities from 15 different countries across the globe and is living proof that small-scale sustainable fishing can work. Slow Fish 2017 was another important step on the journey towards a Good, Clean and Fair future.