Jon Crofts Slow Fish
My name is Jonathan Crofts and I’ve been involved with Slow Fish for about 8 years. I became a fishmonger, in my mind, at the age of 18 when I left school, but it took me a long time to figure out that that’s what I loved, and that’s what I loved to do. I kind of fell in love with fresh fish, you know…when I was a youngster I didn’t travel much and we would get these boxes of fresh fish in every day, some of them handline caught in the Indian Ocean the day before, and some of them from Grimsby. And just the smells and the textures, the fact that you could open a box of fresh fish—say, plaice— and it would smell like fresh lemons and every single fish had its own different, unique smell and texture. It became like Christmas, opening up boxes every morning and wondering what you were going to see, and that’s why I fell in love with it. I went through a whole career and it took a long time to figure out, and then, when I got to Canada, I decided that that was the time to be in my own fishmonger’s business and try and revive the art of fishmongering in Canada. I think people need to understand that fish are the last truly wild hunted food that people have to risk their lives to go out and bring for us, and they use not just hard work, but amazing knowledge and skills and passed-down traditions to make that possible. And good fishermen are like gold to a fishmonger because they’re the guys that make us… we can’t survive without them. If we just had to rely on the commercial, industrial, corporate side of fisheries, we couldn’t survive as fishmongers because we would be… We wouldn’t have any product; we would be competing with the big-box stores and the big guys who work just on price and don’t care about quality, and we wouldn’t be able to be fishmongers. So, that’s really why I got involved with Slow Food and Slow Fish, because I need to survive and I need to pass my business on to somebody else, either my kids or somebody else that can be a fishmonger for the town, and it’s important to me that we do that. The customers that appreciate that, the customers that want that service, are still going to be there in the future and we need to preserve that and, if possible, expand it. I’ll give you an example of how Slow Food has changed the world in a small way, and that’s because it’s changed my life, it’s changed the way that I run my business, it’s changed my outlook on how I deal with fishermen, how I deal with consumers, and the way that I purchase for my business. And I know [Slow Food] has done that for other people. So, every single person that changes and tries to improve what they’re doing and improve the knowledge, Slow Food and Slow Fish are influencing that and it’s changing the world in a positive way. I talk to students at our local college about fishmongering and seafood— I call it my “indoctrination talk”— and sometimes they’ll put their hands up and say, “it’s so complicated, how can we even begin to think about buying sustainable seafood when there are so many issues and it’s so complex?” And I always say to them that, “you’ve made a start by thinking about it.” If you think about it and care about it—you’re never going to be perfect, I’m not perfect, I make mistakes all the time in my business and I’ve been doing this for 20 years in Canada. All you can do is do the best that you can and try to improve the situation and if everybody does that, then we’ll move the market forward rather than backward and the world will be a better place. Currently in Western Canada the Slow Fish network has been mobilized and has been partnering with other organizations, such as T. Buck Suzuki, to start a campaign to try to make life easier for fishermen, to make the quota system and the licensing system fairer, to make it more transparent, to enable young fishermen to come back into fishing with a sense of community and to be able to have their own business and sense of self worth and to be able to have a fishing business that is meaningful to them, that they can make a reasonable living from. Because in Western Canada for so long the industry has been corporatized and we’ve reached a point where the value chain benefits only people that aren’t fishing, or aren’t touching fish or handling fish. It’s become a feudal system and in Western Canada we want to move away from that feudal system and we want to move back toward an owner-operator system where independent fishers can have their own businesses and they can market the fish to who they want to. Everybody that’s in the business knows—and it’s the same in every field in life— that there are good fishermen and there are OK fishermen and there are not-so-good fishermen, and we want to develop more and more good fishermen that care about quality and add value to our resource. We have to make sure that we add value to it because, if we just fish based on volume, and extracting volume, what we end up with is a giant protein mine rather than an artisanal sector that’s producing great food that tastes fantastic. We can’t treat our oceans like mines, we have to treat them like a resource that… we have to have husbandry and we have to make sure that that resource is there for future generations, that’s out responsibility. I’m appealing to the Minister [of Fisheries] and to the [Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Canada] to listen to the amazing recommendations of the Standing Committee [on Fisheries and Oceans], who have come down strongly on the side of supporting independent fishermen and strongly on the side of moving away from a feudal system and having more transparency with quotas and licenses; and to actually implement the recommendations and pass them into law. I know it will be hard work but everybody is willing to do their part to make it successful so we have a thriving fishing industry on the west coast.