I like Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. Yes he's a bit posh, and some of his rhetoric and ideas can be interpreted as somewhat elitist, but I always get the feeling that he is a genuine, passionate man, who cares about the food issues he champions, albeit with a certain air of naivety (his complete dismay at a mother's insistence on prioritizing low cost over animal welfare in his Chicken Run a few years back did demonstrate more than a little blind spot when relating to people of a limited income).
But he really is at his best when he is pointing out the all round benefits of a sensible relationship between legislators, industry and consumer, which he managed perfectly in last nights Fish Fight on Channel 4. Taking a look at the laws and culture in place with regards to fishing and our appetite for fish, major umbrage was take with the quite frankly shocking amount 'throw back' that current EU species quota results in. 'Throw back' is the return of perfectly consumable dead fish into the sea, that it is illegal to retain and sell once fishermen have reached their monthly limit.
Many fisherman argue that net/haul quotas and limited fishing days would be more effective, meaning that they can keep everything caught, and reduce the amount of time and money spent trawling for allowed species, especially as each trawl results in the capture and waste of the fish that quotas were originally intended to protect. Of course if this was to be applied there may be some danger of overfishing, with fishermen directly targeting waters where more popular and profitable fish are found, but that is where consumer responsibility comes into play.
Cod is a hugely popular fish in restaurants and chippies, and of course supermarkets across the country. However, more responsible selection from consumers, extending their pallet to include other, more sustainable fish, would ensure that the pressure on Cod supplies would be alleviated. It was with mixed feelings that I watched the attempts of River Cottage chef Tim as he tried to introduce oily fish to the chippie menu in the form of a Mackerel Bap. While some costumers were eventually coerced into going against the grain and trying the alternative combo, many were still unswerving in their craving for the traditional dish - this despite a Seafood Choices Alliance study reporting that 79% of European fish consumers state environmental factors in choosing their fishy dish. A change in attitude it seems, may be almost as time consuming as a change in EU law.
There are ways to help though, as always by making an effort at home or when dining out. If you are a fish lover who'd like to adopt a more sustainable and varied diet, Greenpeace UK have an guide that can be obtained either via download or by post by clicking on http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/oceans/forms/order-your-free-fish-guide
If you missed last night's opening episode of the Hugh's Fish Fight is available on 4OD and future episodes will be looking at the global effects of fishing.
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Image: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net