Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Winning Fish Fight
Image credit www.fishfight.net
No, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall hasn't been getting in the ring with a heavyweight cod! Unless you've had your head in a bucket of seawater for the past couple of months, you can't have failed to notice Hugh's fight to reduce 'discard' on trawlers.
It's all to do with the practice by which trawlers, once they've reached their fish quotas, throw any remaining catch back in the water. It's a serious problem with estimates suggesting that nearly half of all fish caught in the North Sea is thrown overboard dead, or dying.
Hugh's campaign has gained massive exposure on TV, with a little help from celebrity chef pals, Heston Blumenthall, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay. His Facebook campaign has attracted over 200,000 'friends' and more than 650,000 have petitioned against fish discards on the official website - www.fishfight.net.
But, the big question is, can campaigns like this by celebrity chefs such as Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall actually work?
It would appear so.
This week, the British government took the first tentative steps towards banning fish discards stating that the practice was 'unacceptable' and fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, has met with other EU delegates in Brussels to discuss a ban on discards.
As a result, it's looking more and more likely that there will be changes to EU policy, specifically to how long fishing fleets can trawl and where they do their fishing. It's proposed that, in future, landed fish will be counted against quotas and 'mixed fisheries' closed when the maximum number of one species has been caught. There will also be improved monitoring using CCTV, electronic logbooks and the positioning of observers at ports and on boats.
These might sound like small steps, but they are certainly steps in the right direction and proof that campaigning by celebrities can make a difference in the real world.
However, as Hugh himself points out, the most effective action can be taken by individuals themselves. The best way to help is by eating less 'fashionable' fish and encouraging the supermarkets and fishmongers to sell more sustainable species that, in many cases, are just as wholesome and delicious as traditional catches. After all, there are plenty more fish in the sea.