In January, national treasure, chef and writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall spearheaded a campaign called "Fish Fight" in response to the "insane waste" caused by North Sea fishermen throwing back almost a million dead and dying fish every year.
An on-line petition was started to urge the members of the European Parliament to change their Fisheries Policy which leads to discarding of fish on a vast scale. Over 730,000 people have now signed the Fish Fight petition. And so many emailed their Member of Parliament to protest about discards that a debate on the whole issue of discards was held in the Houses of Parliament.
Then in July, the European Commission published their proposals for a new Common Fisheries Policy and they included recommendations for a discard ban. Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki stressed the need to maintain fish stocks, and was quoted in a BBC article: "Action is needed now to get all our fish stocks back into a healthy state to preserve them for present and future generations. Only under this precondition can fishermen continue to fish and earn a decent living out of their activities."
Supermarkets Fall into Line:
Tesco, and then Princes, Morrissons, Asda and lastly John West have all agreed to change their fishing methods over the next few years so that more tuna and less of other fish are caught in nets.
Consumers are Eating More Alternative Fish Types
There has also been a campaign to raise consumer awareness of lesser known, sustainable fish species by encouraging shoppers to eat less of the 'big five' popular fish - cod, haddock, salmon, prawns and tuna--and more of alternative varieties.
Sainsbury's has sold an extra 46 tons of alternative fish varieties such as coley, pouting, rainbow trout, hake and megrim following the launch of its Switch the Fish campaign in June.
Waitrose said it has also a marked demand for white fish alternatives to cod and haddock. Sales of Cornish pollock increased 207 per cent, Cornish brill fillets 64 per cent, Anglesey seabass fillets grew 31 per cent, while Icelandic whiting fillets increased 35 per cent. Sales of mackerel are up 105%.
Birdseye, the creator of fish fingers, has done their bit and pioneered the Omega 3 Fish Finger in 2007, a sustainable fish finger. They wanted to relieve pressure on cod stocks. This has resulted in a 3,000 ton reduction in Birds Eye's yearly cod catch, equivalent to 1.5 million fish.
Now People are Eating Too Much Fish!
In the you-can't-win category, the Guardian now says that the campaign is too successful: people are eating too much fish, both alternative and the big five. Apparently it "may have had the unintended consequence of driving up the total amount of fish consumed in the UK."
"There is no evidence that encouraging people to be more adventurous with new species will ease the pressure on fish stocks. Fish stock restoration deserves more attention than the promotion of fish consumption. Promoting the consumption of unwanted species is a risky gamble which could lead to more demand for fish and put more pressure on our fish stocks."
More on the Fish Campaign
Sustainable Fishing War Hits UK TV with " Fish Fight "
Celebrity Chef Responds to Fish Fight Critics
Project Ocean Is "Retail Activism" at its Best