I finally caught up (excuse the pun) with the Fish Fight programs at the weekend and my what a revelation. In case this has passed you by, this is the latest campaign by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall to address clear failings in how we are catching and eating sea fish. His programs had a very real impact on me and motivated me to put fingers to keyboard and write this post. I buy good quality, free range meat that comes from well looked after animals. So why shouldn’t I approach fish buying in the same way? I implore you to read on and sign up to Hugh’s campaign.

I’ve been conscious for a while now that buying certain species of fish (particularly cod) isn’t necessarily the ‘right’ thing to be doing. But this was based on research by scientists about the levels of fish stocks. What Hugh has done is shown that while the actions are correct the reasoning isn’t necessarily exactly right. It is clear that we need to take action before we ruin the sea’s for future generations.

From the comfort of your arm chair it’s very easy to see that there are issues in the world that someone needs to correct. But knowing how little old you can help instigate change is much harder, how many times have you sat at home watching children in need or comic relief and thought how terrible it is, but what difference is my few pounds going to make?

The big issue – discards at sea

This is where I think Hugh has been very clever. He’s focusing on one very important issue; discards at sea. Watching his three programs it was quite horrific seeing perfectly good fish thrown overboard dead because the fishermen didn’t have a quota to land them. The EU estimates that discard’s total between 40% and 60% of the total catch, that’s a lot of fish! The quota’s were clearly put there to address the issue of overfishing, so good intentions, but obviously they haven’t been effective. The quota’s aren’t reducing the amount of fish caught, they’re only reducing the amount of fish landed in ports. Hugh has recognised that we aren’t going to be able to change fishing techniques, but we can change the quota policy to achieve its objective.

The solutions

It was also quite startling how every person involved in the fishing industry from fisherman to port operator had the same opinion; change the quota system to a number of days fishing allowed and not number of fish to be caught. This would instantly eliminate discard and allow fishermen to operate a viable business.

To ensure a sustainable level of fish stocks a number of other solutions have been proposed by scientists and environmental groups. It isn’t a simple issue and will require the re-writing of the common fisheries policy by the EU. But I completely agree with Hugh that eliminating discards has to be top of the priority list.

What can we do?

Firstly please go and sign up to the campaign here. The more people who sign up the better, this will send a clear message to our politicians that this is an issue we care about and it needs addressing.

Secondly write to you MP and ask them to support the Fish Fight Early Day Motion which has been tabled by Zac Goldsmith, MP.

Finally, expand the fish you eat, try eating Coley or Pouting for example which are just like cod, but in a relative abundance in our seas. Ask your local fish and chip shop to stock other fish so that you can make a sustainable choice.