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Billingsgate Market and The Fishmongers’ Company

The Fishmongers’ Company has been closely involved with the fish industry for well over 700years. For long periods during the Middle Ages the Company’s members enjoyed a monopoly of the sale of fish in the City of London and anyone selling fish in and around the City had to pay a levy to the Company on each box sold. The monopoly was lost in the 15th Century, but the Company continued to play an active role in the London fish industry. In 1604 a Royal Charter of King James 1st confirmed the Company’s power to inspect the quality of fish that was being sold and to remove from sale any that was deemed to be ‘unwholesome or unfit for man’s body’. This power extended to the City of London, the Borough of Southwark and environs.

London’s principal fish market from the 16th century was at Billingsgate, near Fishmongers’ Hall, and the Company diligently undertook its inspection role at the old market until it moved to a new site in 1982, about 4 miles east in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. A section in the Act of Parliament which moved the market transferred the Company’s powers to the new site, and the Company has continued to maintain at its own expense, a small team of inspectors whose daily work ensures the high quality of seafood sold at New Billingsgate

The Inspectors are also charged with responsibilities under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act and the Shellfish Act and they are appointed by Defra as Sea Fisheries Officers. These other duties help to ensure that only seafood that is caught legally is allowed to be sold on the market.

In addition to the above, the inspectors are also actively engaged in training and regularly assist with courses being offered by the Billingsgate Seafood Training School. The Company’s chief inspector is also a member of several industry advisory panels and is also actively involved in the International Association of Seafood Professionals (IAFI). This means that the Company is well positioned to advise on many different issues related to the seafood industry and to keep the market fully informed on any developments that could have a bearing on its business.

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