“These concerns are heightened as I watch our responsible local fishermen putting these dumped nets ashore in industrial proportions, attempting to clean their seas. Presently, I actively highlight this disgusting, disgraceful and repugnant situation to the hospitality industry, through discussions, lectures, and industry conference speeches, and to the public via our social media platforms,” he says. This situation, Cowie adds, will also be highlighted in more detail in a forthcoming book he is writing, gathering all the knowledge he has amassed in almost 20 years in the market.
In addition to what comes into the restaurant, he says they place equal importance to what leaves it, and ultimately that is very little in accordance with their zero-waste policy. “This drives us to innovation, so we are constantly developing new and interesting dishes, utilising every part of every fish, where even empty shells become a shellfish bisque,” he explains. The fish bones and heads that are not used to make the fish stocks, are returned to fishermen partners and become their crab/lobster bait.
Photo courtesy of Captain's Galley
As a serious commitment with sustainability practices, Cowie says all the staff are trained to environmental and ethical management policies, and there are also policy documents available throughout the restaurant for guests to read. The menu explains seasonality, shows illustrations of the boats that catch the fish, and highlights the fishing grounds where they are caught. “Furthermore, we encourage all our diners to join our social media platforms, on which we highlight pressing environmental issues relating to the current position of our fish stocks,” he explains.
The restaurant’s main sustainability goals are to maintain an ‘almost-zero’ carbon footprint, and to ever-strengthen their relationships with “like-minded fishermen, other suppliers, and our customers,” he says. Together they play a simple yet important role in regenerating what were once among the most prolific multi-species fishing grounds in the world. “Sustainability is neither a flag, nor a sign. It is a mindset resulting in a truly sustainable lifestyle which extends way beyond the restaurant into everyday life decisions, options and purchases,” he says.
Cowie welcomes restaurants adopting sustainable processes, but it disappoints him when he sees an opportunity lost due to self-gain, and becomes concerned when leading groups and associations merely talking the talk and lose direction on the importance of creating a healthy environment. “So, maybe paying more attention when mother-nature calls, would be more effective than seeking personal glorification,” he adds. Good advice from someone who has been in the market for almost 20 years, and for whom sustainability is much more than a fad.