Seafood project is good for the sole

29th March 2013 at 00:00
A series of workshops are on the menu and students are tucking into everything on offer, Jean McLeish discovers

You maybe wouldn't want a nip from him, but in 50 hours a locally caught lobster like this one could be on a restaurant table in Japan and selling for about #163;65.

He's just one of more than 60 species of fish and shellfish caught off Scottish shores, some of which are being shown to Banff Academy students this morning. Not everyone has a smile for a lobster - some third-year girls recoil as if they've encountered something from a horror movie.

As well as the popular haddock, students are getting a look at some of the less familiar fish caught around our coasts, including fish donated from the catch of a local boat, the Venture 11.

Seafood in Schools is an industry-led project managed by Seafood Scotland, which runs a series of four workshops where children of all ages can learn about the benefits of fish in their diet and get the opportunity to taste and cook it.

These sessions give a fascinating insight into the industry and a springboard to further classroom work where pupils will carry out projects across the curriculum, using seafood as a context for interdisciplinary learning. Their families are also invited in for an after-school session - where parents and carers can also learn how to fillet a fish and discover new recipes to try at home.

"Seafood in Schools is a government-funded project supported by the seafood industry, which aims to show children a little bit more about Scottish seafood, where it comes from, how it gets to their plate, what it tastes like and why it's good for them," says Ruathy Donald, one of four coordinators for Seafood in Schools based around Scotland.

On the first day of this two-day project, 180 primary school children from the fishing industry's heartland in the North East of Scotland came to Banff Academy to learn more about seafood. Most of the P7s will come to this school after the summer from primaries in coastal villages like Portsoy, Whitehills and Macduff where fishing has been the lifeblood of the community for generations.

"There will be a lot of fishing families in Gardenstown and Whitehills areas who come to this school. It is an important part of the community," says Banff Academy headteacher David Dunn.

"The fishing industry has reduced in size over the years. There is still a fair size of fleet, but some big boats rather than the larger number of smaller boats. So I suppose the employment opportunities on the actual fishing boats have reduced, but there is the wider hospitality industry and there are still opportunities there."

Today it's the turn of the academy's first-years and third-year hospitality students to hear about the benefits of eating oily fish and about balancing protein and carbohydrate in their diet in a lively presentation from food technologist Catriona Frankitti from Fish for Health.

While some of these children from fishing families will be home-schooled in the importance of fish in a healthy diet, several third-years say they don't eat fish and are reluctant to try smoked varieties.

But while some of them may not be keen to eat fish - these teenagers could be wearing it in years to come. While he's showcasing different species, John Frankitti from Fish for Health explains how fish skin like mackerel could be coming to a catwalk near you.

"We've been looking at ways to try and add value, because we catch thousands of tonnes of mackerel each year and the skins will just be disposed of. The skin is stronger than leather and if we could cure it we could make fashion garments out of it, even if it was just ties," he says.


It's an industry worth millions to Scotland's economy and provides jobs that don't necessarily require you to brave giant waves.

Seafood in Schools is an interdisciplinary project where young Scots can learn about the importance of the fishing industry to the economy and the nation's health.

Record levels of childhood obesity underline the value of projects like this, where mums and dads also get the opportunity to become better informed about healthy diets.

Former Banff Academy student David Dougall is demonstrating how to fillet a haddock at his old school today.

David is now head chef at nearby Banff Springs Hotel, where he goes through masses of haddock every weekend.

He thinks the lure of fast food may draw teenagers away from healthier food like fish, but he's encouraged by the enthusiasm of younger children.

"Yesterday I had the primary pupils and a lot of them ate fish," he says. "But a lot of them had the fishing backgrounds where parents or grandparents had been in fishing."

Students have been taking a note of how many children in each group taste the smoked salmon, trout, mackerel and herring on offer. And they will produce statistics from the tasting sessions in their maths class later.

Catriona Frankitti, a food technologist at the event, says that Scots need to increase their uptake of these oily fish and recommends they're eaten once a week to improve our diet.

"In fishing communities I would expect them to eat predominantly white fish, because they may have someone in the industry or access to white fish or they eat fish and chips," Mrs Frankitti says.

"But what they don't do is eat oil-rich fish. Now in the Scottish diet we have to double the quantity of oil-rich fish intake and that is about an awareness and access to the seafood sources that are high in Omega 3."

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