Fishing in the Thames



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Time Out goes fishing with Thames estuary trawlerman Martin Yorworth and looks at the increasingly debated issue of fish sustainability. We've also got a handy guide to some lesser-known, but equally delicious, local alternatives to at-risk species that can be pulled from the capital's river

  • Read our interview with a Thames estuary fisherman

    Fish you can eat from the Thames

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    (Platichthys flesus)
    A flatfish, also known as fluke. It is commonly caught by inshore boats around the British Isles, but often as a by-catch and shipped to the continent, where it is more highly prized. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall praises it passionately and grills his ‘served with a generous trickle of butter, flaky sea salt and chopped fresh parsley’ in his recently published ‘River Cottage Fish Book'. Classed as a ‘fish to eat’ by MCS. MCS rating: 2 TO-E-06-1958-F fish_crop5.jpg


    (Osmeridae eperlanus)A small oily fish, at its best from May to September, but in this country is usually sold as pike bait. Even though Rick Stein admits in his ‘English Seafood Cookery’ book to have never caught smelt, he would happily skewer and deep fry them in seasoned flour.
    Not rated
    by the MCS

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    (Clupea sprattus)These small oily fish, also known as brisling when canned, have one of the highest concentrations of omega 3 fatty acids. The MCS encourage you to include them in your diet as they consider sprat to be a sustainable choice of fish.Not rated by the MCS

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    (Limanda limanda)The smallest of the flatfish, best caught in summer months, and also a result of by-catch. A good substitute in Dover or lemon sole recipes. Classed as a ‘fish to eat’ by the MCS. MCS rating: 2 TO-E-06-1958-F fish_crop4.jpg


    (Clupea harengus)A widely consumed oily fish that is often preserved by pickling to make rollmops, or smoked to make kippers. However, in Scotland they roll fresh herring in oatmeal and pan-fry them in butter. Classed as a’fish to eat’ by the MCS when from approved stock such as the Thames Estuary, Blackwater, or North Sea. MCS rating: 3

    Dover sole

    (Solea solea)A British classic, renowned for its delicate flavour and firm fillets is best when simply grilled or pan fried with a squeeze of lemon. Classed as a ‘fish to eat’ by the MCS when caught from the North Sea, where the populations are in vigour and caught sustainably or by the MSC-certified Hastings fleet. MCS rating: 4

    MCS ratings

    Rating 1 – considered most sustainably produced. Rating 2, 3 and 4 – increasing cause for concern Rating 5 – most vulnerable to over-fishing and/or are fished using methods which cause damage to the environment or non-target species; ie avoid purchase.

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    How fish sustainability is decided

    This fish list has been compiled with the support of the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and their comprehensive website, which even publishes a downloadable ‘MCS Pocket Good Fish Guide’, specifying which fish to eat and avoid. Navigating the complex issues and choices surrounding fish sustainability is not straightforward, despite the expanding resources provided by the MCS. Variables such as current stocks and fishing methods affect a species’ sustainability rating. In some cases it can be difficult to know for certain where a fish has come from. But there are plenty of less popular species that shouldn’t trouble your conscience.Ask your fishmonger the source of their fish, and whether it comes from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified stocks. Alternatively look out for the MSC logo when in the supermarket.
    Further information: Marine Conservation Society (; Marine Stewardship Council (; Thames Estuary Partnership (

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