Fish for compliments

Fish for compliments
Fish for compliments

Hands up to those who knew it was World Fisheries Day on 21 November? Before you shrug off this news as sounding like an expensive publicity stunt, think more laterally.

In fact, this is an opportunity for you to position your business as caring, environmentally conscious and interested in sustainability – in other words, another way to win your customers’ hearts and minds. It is also a trend that has been making headlines worldwide, especially since Britain’s Prince Charles spoke out against the damaging impact of our planet’s polluted oceans at the Our Oceans Conference in Malta in October. This means that if you are proactive, international guests are just as likely to be impressed as locals.

So if you serve lunch and/or dinner at your establishment, make sure you and your staff are up to date with the WWF’s Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (WWF-SASSI) and that you buy in and serve only the most sustainable fish. WWF-SASSI has devised an easy-to-use, traffic-light system that codes fish red, amber or green depending on how endangered they are. Your suppliers should be able to guide you on this but encourage your staff to update themselves by browsing and by downloading one of SASSI’s useful tools from:

Remember to update your AAQA profile to include your SASSI commitment – and possibly even a special offer that you build around this.

At your establishment, alert guests to your involvement buy devising a sustainability corner in your restaurant. Your centrepiece can be the poster version of the SASSI list that features pictures of the various species, also downloadable from: If you are being particularly proactive, add the SASSI Table of Alternatives from – based on factors such as texture and suitability for specific recipes, this highlights the best green-light fish to use in place of the endangered red-light fish.

If you do not serve lunch or dinner, the fact that fish is a popular foodstuff for many South Africans means that chances are, over the festive season, you or your staff will be asked to recommend a good fish restaurant in your area. If your establishment is on the coast, you may even be asked about good fishing spots by guests who would like the fun of catching their own meal.

Get set for dealing with this situation by researching the answers to these questions:

Q: Help! How do I find restaurants to recommend?

A: Start with what you know and have heard about local restaurants. Check out social media sites such as Trip Advisor and online sites such as and Ask your local Tourist Office if they have a restaurant guide they would like you to distribute in your establishment.

Q: How do I shortlist?

Keep an eye on restaurant reviews in the local press, and keep a file on those you think might be worth recommending. Think about your target market and the type of guests you usually attract. To underline your environmental sustainability concerns, highlight restaurants that participate in the WWF’s Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (WWF-SASSI). Major chains participating at present are John Dory’s, Ocean Basket and Sun International.

Q: Is there any other information for guests?

Most WWF-SASSI participants are suppliers such as I&J or supermarket groups. But you can alert guests to a vital way in which they can have a collective individual impact wherever they choose to eat. WWWF-SASSI has created three easy-to-use online tools so that if restaurants do not declare the SASSI status of a fish, they can check it before they decide what to order. The options are:

  • The FishMS service: SMS the name of the fish or seafood to 079-499-8795 and they will receive a message in reply giving SASSI status information on that species.
  • The SASSI App: Yes, there really is an app for this, too! It’s free on Android and iOS and can also be downloaded from:
  • SASSI Pocket Guide: Also available for download from is the electronic version of a pocket-sized booklet that consumers can carry in a wallet or handbag.

Expand your restaurant list as and when you can by adding a few other key, popular categories such as Italian, Indian, vegetarian and local cuisine. Be honest when passing on the recommendation – if you have not eaten there yourself and are working on hearsay, admit it: “I’ve heard this place is good.” And wish your guests bon appétit!