The quest for a permanent marketplace for regionally caught fish continues.
The supply is not in question. According to the analysis from the County Administrative Board, over 800 metric tons of newly-captured fresh fish could swamp Stockholm every year, but as yet there is no permanent place in which to sell it.. But a solution may be in sight – the Stockholm Fish Market project, initiated by Henrik C Andersson and initially supported by the administrative board for two years, took another step towards fruition this winter when Sturehof offered fresh fish to hungry consumers six days a week outside of its restaurant at Stureplan. Although it was great to see a makeshift fish market in the heart of Stockholm commerce, the ultimate aim is a permanent marketplace where fresh, locally-captured fish and seafood is readily and regularly available.
Just like in many other conscious urban areas in the western world, locally-produced goods have been an ever-growing trend in Stockholm. This is obviously at odds with the globalised food trade, where everything is mass produced and centralised. When it comes to fish, the way things are currently working is not beneficial to consumers, and has even worse implications on the local fishing. And while Stockholmers have devoured restaurants working after the locally-produced formula and the trend is towards trying to maintain the same principles at home in your own kitchen, it’s just not that simple, even if the will is there.
The only fish from our waters that may find its way to our plates today are fished large-scale, sent to Gothenburg and then back up to Stockholm before finally being made available, a process which could take up to a week. When one of the greenest cities in the world, situated just by the water and with the world’s most breath-taking archipelagos, doesn’t have a way of harvesting its own quite healthy supply of fish for its people, the market is clearly dysfunctional. It’s not only odd, it’s mindboggling.
Henrik C Andersson, is the initiator behind the Stockholm Fish Market project. He loves fish to the extent that he eats it twice a day – mostly zander, saithe or perch that he has caught himself. Having seen its enormous potential for a number of years , he would probably have thought about doing the market project himself, but one thing held him back.
“I’m not an entrepreneur – instead I wanted to formulate a project. And at the same time the government presented *Matlandet Sverige*, a campaign effort to make Sweden into a ‘food country’. So we could apply for funds for this project and got going,” he explains.
“The supply of fish to buy in Stockholm is very boring, and at the same time we have fishermen in the area that cannot survive. Small-scale fishing is dying a slow death. We have the fishermen, we have the fish, but we cannot really buy these fish anywhere. The idea is to link up the consumer and producer, to cut off the intermediate link.”
They formed the association Stockholm Fish Market and initiated a project that was made up of two parts – firstly to interview the fishermen within a 250 kilometres radius, and secondly to investigate the actual demand among local consumers.
“My ambition was to present this in a good enough way that market forces would take over from there. I had no idea who it would be. I just thought it was so obvious that it was a given someone would do it. I suppose it hasn’t been easy but now we have come a long way.”
Just how long is the question. The people behind Sturehof have picked up the baton and their makeshift marketplace that first operated a couple of days in the spring of 2013 outside of their Stureplan restaurant has been a great. Last winter it was open six days a week and it will hopefully evolve into a permanent market at another location.
Henrik explains the collaboration with Sturehof came about by chance.
“It was sheer coincidence. I was at a meeting with PG Nilsson from Sturehof about something entirely different and after the meeting I was telling him about the project and he immediately became very interested.”
Until April 1st they were open Monday through Saturday and the interest among consumers was overwhelming. Henrik says that selling the fish was incredibly easy, almost at any price – the problem is to get out enough fish. The dealings with the individual fishermen, the pricing and the logistics need solving.
Perhaps the success of the makeshift market was the final proof needed to go ahead as Svenska Brasserier, the company behind Sturehof, are now making great strides towards a permanent market.
“We are now trying to establish this venture for real, in collaboration with the Stockholm Fish Market association,” says Stefan Barenthein restaurant manager at Sturehof. “The pilot tests at Stureplan were very successful and proved that the demand exists, but to be honest, selling the fish is the simple aspect. The tricky part is solving the logistics, everything from the transport, reception and handling before it can reach the consumer. That’s the big aspect of a fish market. And where we stand today is we have made great strides when it comes to receiving it and cleaning it. That’s where we have concentrated our efforts. We have found a good location with the ambition to put it in use this fall. Then we could have a whole lot more fish come through than we did before. As for the location of the actual market, we are working on several leads but cannot yet officially mention where,” Stefan explains.
The progress should make both consumers and fishermen happy, but as Stefan Barenthein puts it: “These local fishermen are obviously fully behind the idea, but they have been living for a generation or two hearing a lot of empty promises so they just want to see something actually happening first of .”
Henrik C Andersson is glad to see his project moving further towards realisation. He explains the matter of price and that the demand will help push it for the benefit of the fishermen and the consumers.
“The difference between what the fisherman gets and what the consumer pays should shrink. But some fish – Baltic herring for example – really demands that you get paid a lot more for fishing it. You haven’t been able to buy Baltic herring for the last 30 years, and everyone wants fresh Baltic herring. It’s about putting a price on it that makes it worth fishing it. I’m quite sure a fish consumer buying at Stureplan or at a coming fish market would pay considerably more than 50 kronor per kilo for fresh Baltic herring. Perhaps three times that. At the moment there are very few people who fish Baltic herring. The personnel at Sturehof have occasionally fished it themselves to be able to present it on their menu, and one can just guess what that does to the price…”
Things needs to change, he states, both in terms of how individuals think, but also in the longer term about how the whole fishing trade is made up.
“It’s difficult to make people change the way they think. It’s hard to even teach chefs and restaurants. You cannot just write the menu and then source the fish; you have to write the menu based on what’s available at any particular time,” Henrik says, with more than a hint of logic.
Years ago there was a fish market at Slussen where local fishermen could come with their catch, but back then the fish trade worked in a completely different way, Henrik says. “The centralisation over the last 20 years goes hand in hand with the globalization of the food trade. Take meat as another example – there are hardly any butchers left. When it comes to fish everything is centralised in Gothenburg, Swedish fish will pass through there. fishmongers are very samey. If you walk into Östermalmshallen, 90 percent will be salmon from fish farms in Norway. And available fish anywhere is from the same few wholesalers. It becomes very samey and boring, and it’s not only bad for us consumers – it’s a death knell for the local fishing.”
Luckily this project has found some considerable legs, and we should get back to eating the fish from our close vicinity says Stefan Barenthein.
“I mean, this is the capital of Sweden, it’s situated by the water, it goes without saying we should have access to the fish from our vicinity. But it comes down to a bit of educating the people too, the Baltic fish has gotten an ill-deserved reputation.”
“A fish market in Stockholm would mean the Stockholmer wouldn’t have to eat fish that has been travelling around the country. And the industry is important for the whole of Stockholm; if you look back, the fishing industry is a big part of our history. There’s nothing wrong with the fish trade in Gothenburg but there’s no reason why we couldn’t do the same thing here. Providing locally-captured fish while cutting off the middleman and the transport. Make the fishermen get a better price while still having a reasonable price for fresh fish to the consumers.”
While Sturehof are providing the market force that Henrik C Andersson was hoping would take over his project, the Stockholm Fish Market association and it’s fishermen members will still benefit even more than just from a better price for their fish.
“Since we use the Stockholm Fish Market brand some of our income will go back to the association,” Stefan Barenthein explains. “The more fish they sell the more they will make. And it’s an important industry – it would be a great shame seeing it go under.”
Photos by: Erika Stenlund
Five other fish markets to look to:
Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo
When the bell rings at .30 each morning this legendary Tokyo market comes to life, complete with hand signs reminiscing of the old Wall Street trade pits.
Every day fish, seafood and vegetables for almost 15,000 euros change hands before landing on dinner plates around Japan and beyond.
The Tsukiji Fish market is being relocated and will probably be in its new premises (a former gas plant) some time in 2016. In the new facility the technology will be more advanced and they plan to shut out air form the outside and keep the fish section at a steady temperature. But hopefully the chaotic and messy scenes that has made the place such an attraction will stay the same.
Pike Place Market, Seattle
Photo Credit: http://antoniorambles.com/
Pike Place Market is often referred to as the soul of Seattle. A little over 100 years old, this market has become a great attraction with over 10 million visitors annually. It’s a must-see, but regardless of some of the fishmongers’ showmanship the market is more than a tourist destination.
It’s probably the one famous market that would be the best model for a space in Stockholm. Awash with smaller businesses, keeping it local, with that direct connection between producer and consumer at the very heart of the idea.
Photo Credit: http://www.mercachef.com/
Who would think that landlocked Madrid actually has the world’s second largest fish market? Despite the lack of a port and water in the vicinity, Mercamadrid has been established as the main marketplace of southern Europe. Mercamadrid also has a meat market and fruit and vegetables, and each day 17,000 vehicles make their way in and out of the market where 20,000 people work. One essential bit of information suggests this is not what we are looking for in Stockholm – entry is restricted to the general public.
Ver-o-Peso, Belém (Brasil)
Photo Credit: http://worldaroundmeapp.com/
Originally a house where goods brought from the Amazonas and surrounding countryside were measured and taxed, the old market hall by the Guajará Bay has transformed into a more modern marketplace. The noisy, chaotic space by the mouth of the Amazon in Brazil houses row upon row of fishmongers offering a dizzying variety of fish, many of which most mere mortals would have a hard time identifying. Otherwise it’s the Acai berries that take centre stage plus an enormous array of fruits from the Amazon forest – fruits that are completely foreign to non-Brazilians.
Fischmarkt, Altona Hamburg
Photo Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/christoph_bellin/5549737696/
A market that has been in operation since 1703 and now offers fresh fish, fruit, vegetables and flowers every Sunday. From five in the morning fresh fish is on display among the open-air stalls and if the sight gets the visitiors hungry, plenty of vendors offer a vast selection of food such as excellent fish sandwiches – that’s if you don’t prefer a bratwurst and a beer at seven in the morning. This is Germany after .