Image credit: Hugh's Fish Fight
As Bonnie reported back in October, celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Fish Fight Campaign is gearing up to tackle the insane waste inherent in the fishing industry—where more than half of all fish caught in the North Sea are thrown back dead. And while Gordon Ramsey may have had his life threatened for investigating illegal shark fishing as part of the efforts, that's not stopping celebrities and members of the public alike from stepping up to fight unsustainable fishing. In fact, the campaign is already claiming a major victory.The launch of the Fish Fight Campaign coincides with the broadcasting of a TV series called Hugh's Fish Fight, in which the celebrity chef travels around the country meeting fishermen, marine conservationists, politicians, supermarkets bosses, and of course fish-eating members of the public.
This is culinary televisual activism in the tradition of Jamie Oliver's efforts for better school dinners. As Bonnie reported, first on the campaign's list of demands is an end to excessive discards at sea. As Fearnley-Whittingstall explains, rules that were meant to protect fisheries are leading to massive waste and unnecessary fish deaths:
"Discarding is not limited to the North Sea, it's a massive problem throughout EU waters. Some of these discards are undersized fish, and some of them are species for which there is currently little market. But much of it is "over-quota" fish: prime cod, haddock, coley, whiting, plaice, and other major food species, for which the fishermen have run out of quota. [...]
The fish are being thrown away because to land them would be illegal. Only a tiny proportion of these fish will survive. For obvious reasons, fishermen hate discards. Conservationists hate them too. Even politicians don't like them. But they are an unavoidable consequence of the current Common Fisheries Policy and the quota system. The very same rules that have been devised with the aim of protecting stocks (principally quotas and minimum landing sizes) have become the reason that so much fish is being thrown back into the sea."
With the EU's Common Fisheries Policy due to be reformed in the coming months, the campaign is timed to put maximum pressure on the powers that be to reform this untenable situation. But discards are just one part of the puzzle—the show/campaign is also promising to tackle everything from aquaculture to global tuna fisheries. In fact, even before the first show was broadcast, Tesco—Britain's biggest supermarket—announced that its own-brand canned tuna would shift to 100% pole and line caught supplies. Hugh told the Guardian that he was convinced the pressure is a result of growing consumer awareness around the issue of sustainable fishing:
"I'm thrilled that Tesco have made this decision. It's a huge ecological gain for the international tuna industry. I congratulate Greenpeace for campaigning so vigorously and passionately on this issue, and I'm delighted we were able to play a role by working with Greenpeace and challenging Tesco directly in our Fish Fight shows for Channel 4. But I've no doubt in the end they've decided this was the right thing for their customers, their brand and for the environment. They are the biggest fish retailer in the UK so there will be real benefits to the marine environment from this decision."
With one early victory under his belt already, it will be interesting to see what follows.