Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall is at it again. This time he has jumped the rabbit proof fence of the chicken coop and landed right up to his neck in the dangerous waters of the Common Fisheries Policy. For an island race, the British are pretty useless about fish – many, many people do not eat fish at all, still more are stuck at the fishfinger stage, and of the rest, many rarely stray past a bit of farmed salmon and a cod and chips.
And yet, around our coasts we have a huge range of fish ready to be taken into our kitchens and turned into wonderful food.
It is difficult to trace where we have gone off the boil with fish, but I suspect that much of it is plain laziness, the same laziness that has seen fast food and processed meals take over our diets during the last 50 years. Fish like Salmon and Cod are easy fish – they are large beasts with plenty of bone free muscle that allows for large chunky fillets that are easy to eat. Compare that to a really fresh sardine, with its fine bones and people will plump for the easy alternative time and time again.
This is such a pity and by being so fussy about our food, not only do we miss out on a good meal and an incredibly healthy resource, but we have actually endangered our entire fishing industry and fishing stocks.
It is easy to blame the rather tortuous and ill thought out laws, many of which originate in Brussels, but if we ate a more varied diet of fish, we would probably have never got to this stage.
The Fish Fight campaign is multi levelled. At one level it is campaigning for discards, perfectly good fish thrown back into the ocean because the law does not allow a cod to be caught when you are fishing for Bass, to be banned. That will require a massive rewrite of the CFP in Europe, though one is on the cards. I am not convinced how possible this is. Discards because of legal quotas are one thing, but so much actually happens because the fish cant be sold – in the UK at least, there simply is not the demand. Also, we still have a problem with potential over fishing, and that means that there will need to be some sort of quota system – as long as you have that, discards are inevitable.
The other side of the campaign is trying to persuade the public to eat more and more varied fish. Hugh and his team have developed a Mackerel Bap which is perfect for fish and chip shops. Other chefs such as Jamie Oliver are promoting recipes using cheap fish like Dab fish.
But there are many obstacles, and as important as this campaign is, and as shameful as our low consumption of fish is, I think the biggest problem will be, like the Chicken Out campaign, the British public them selves. To date 200,000 people have signed Hugh’s petition, and I hope many are still to sign, but there are 60,000,000 people in this country, those that have signed already are, I suspect, those that eat fish anyway.
The question is, therefore, how does the campaign get to the rest? And will sections of the media, as some pratts at the Daily Mail did with chickens, try and kill the campaign because they don’t like Hugh?
Sign the petition, eat more fish (especially the unusual ones) and cross your fish fingers!