If Scotland really does have such fabulous seafood, why do ordinary citizens find it so hard to tap into this much eulogised catch? The problem has been that subsequent governments have fixated on international exports, not food for citizens.

Farmed salmon has been the apple of their eye, even though its production has proved, to my mind, to be an environmental catastrophe for our west coast. Premium shellfish –brown crab to China, scallops to Italy, langoustines to Spain – has also been despatched abroad as soon as it was landed.

Once these exports, and the chefs’ orders, were syphoned off, that left many retail fishmongers’ slabs selling a predictable choice, heavily reliant on familiar species, notably haddock, padded out with farmed fish. Enter coronavirus. Restaurant orders stopped overnight, export chains broke down. But instead of tying up boats and facing financial ruin, some determined fishermen, operating smaller boats closer to shore, have started exploring local markets, on the quayside, via direct boat-to-door home deliveries, or at the fishmongers.

As Nick Underdown, campaigner at Open Seas, the charity that promotes sustainable alternatives to damaging fishing, puts it: “Some of our tremendous, sustainably caught seafood that was previously shipped abroad is now actually available.” Hurrah!

It’s heartening to see our seafood supply chain localising, but what happened to species diversity? In Cornwall and Devon fishermen are concentrating on the local market too, and they are lucky to have an abundance of fish available from smaller boats: lemon sole, cod, plaice, hake, megrim, turbot, as well as shellfish. Scotland’s fleet, on the other hand, has become highly reliant on monocultures, for example scallops dredged as if ploughing a field, which destroys the breeding grounds for other fish.

Efforts are being made to make these fisheries more selective, but unfortunately some fisheries still net huge amounts of “bycatch”, and often very small fish, meaning that young fish never get the chance to grow and breed. A further issue is that many fisheries around Scottish shores have not recovered from decades of overfishing. For instance, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea recommends that there is ‘no catch’ of cod on the west coast. Other sources insist that there are viable cod fisheries in the North Sea. Some fishmongers sell this catch, supplied predominantly from bigger boats that land direct to our whitefish port hubs: Peterhead, Fraserburgh, and to a lesser degree Scrabster, Lochinver, and Kinlochbervie.

Here are some fishmongers, local cooperatives, and small commercial operators doing local sales.

I can’t vouch for the sustainability credentials of all their products. Many sell the ubiquitous farmed salmon, and dredged scallops. There are few unambiguously local and sustainable sources as yet.

But now that coronavirus has depth-charged our fishermen, they need our support. Let’s show them that locals are a market worth taking seriously. And if we do, there’s a real prospect of building together the buoyant, transparent, wild fish trade that Scotland deserves, and feeds its own citizens first.

Orkney Fish Shop, Stromness

01856 850870

Crab, lobster, and fish. Home deliveries, orders placed before midday, closes 2pm.

Ross Dougall Fishmonger, Peebles

01721 720899

Great range, and popular sashimi.

St Andrews Seafoods, St Andrews

01334 897337

Known for its lobster.

E&O Fish, Arbroath Phone 01241 873574

Wide selection of fresh and smoked seafood

Downies of Whitehills, Banff 01261 861204

Selects fish at the local markets on a daily basis. Free delivery over £75

RK Shellfish, Cromarty

Selling lobster, prawns, crab and trying to diversify further www.rkshellfish.co.uk

Fencebay, Fairlie 01475 568 918

Famed for its subtly smoked kippers made with locally caught herrings.

Islander Shellfish, Stornaway 01851 706772

Langoustine tails, salt herring, monkfish kebabs are highlights.

Local Shellfish Sales, Kyle of Lochalsh, Kyleakin, Plockton, Broadford, Elgol, Dunvegan


Community-minded enterprise doing pier-side sales of local shellfish, direct from fishermen to the local area.

Wilson’s Catch of the Day, Glasgow

0141 204 4456

Shop open and doing deliveries. Also part of Glasgow Food Assembly, so you can order online and collect weekly.

Welch, Edinburgh 0131 552 5883

Home deliveries from family firm. Shop open.