We discuss sustainable fishing with leading Auckland chef

For Harbourside Ocean Bar Grill’s Executive Chef, Richard Highnam, ingredients must not only be the best - they must also be sustainable. 

When it comes to eating sustainably there are three general rules to adhere to; buy organic, eat seasonal and think local. It’s easily said, but often difficult to execute due to price and inconvenience. 


This coupled with the powerless feeling that individual contribution is too small to make a real difference can get in the way of good intentions. But if you're thinking about how you can lead a more sustainable lifestyle, food should be first on your radar, considering that roughly 60% of our eco-footprint is a result of the food we consume. On a personal level, it’s empowering to know we can make a difference, and on a larger scale, it’s comforting to know that restaurants are also being mindful about consumption habits. 


When discussing sustainable eating, seafood is often at the forefront of the conversation. Being the Executive Chef of one of Auckland’s most famed seafood restaurants, Richard Highnam’s role of creating more sustainable ways of plating up the catch of the day is one of the most important. 


‘It’s crucial that we have a close relationship with our fish suppliers,’ says Highnam.

‘We make sure we are informed about what is in season, and which fish are in abundance, and make the correct fish choice when designing our menus.’


Highnam tends not to valorise Harbourside’s sustainable credentials, believing the employment of such practices are the basic responsibility for every chef. The ocean may give the impression of limitless abundance, but in reality, there are a growing list of fin species on the brink of extinction. 


Overfishing is one thing, but there is a lot more to ethical seafood to be mindful of, too. Handling fish is also an issue that has come into question and Harbourside adhere to the methods of killing fish that have been endorsed as best practice.


‘We try to source longline-caught fish as they give us great fish quality and allow fishermen to target specific species.’ 


There is a myriad of evidence to suggest that the way a fish is caught, handled and killed directly correlates to taste. This makes sense; the flesh of a fish that has been line-caught and treated with a level of reverence will taste better than a fish that has been jostled and bruised in a net. 

Seasonality in seafood comes with its own challenges, sourcing whatever is available locally and at peak freshness isn’t always easy. But that’s the beauty of the industry; there is an element of ‘letting the fisherman decide what the menu is’  that comes with a level of excitement. 


‘We are always thinking of seasonality when it comes to creating a menu, we want to produce great seasonal dishes of high quality.’


Cooking strictly within the confines of seasonality wouldn’t be cohesive to the menu offering, but the pursuit of doing so encourages them to think - and cook - more creatively. 


Harbourside Ocean Bar Grill

Level 1, Ferry Building 99 Quay St, Auckland CBD