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TV chef aims to rewrite EU fisheries discards policy

By Colin Ricketts - 27 May 2011 12:9:0 GMT
TV chef aims to rewrite EU fisheries discards policy

British TV chef, writer and food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has set his sights on the fishing industry with a campaign to try to force reform the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which will be rewritten next year.

Next Tuesday (May 31) Whittingstall takes his 'Fish Fight' campaign, which was launched with a Channel Four series in the UK, to Brussels.

In studying the fishing industry Whittingstall found himself shocked by the waste caused by CFP policies such as quotas.

While limiting takes of popular species is designed to protect them the reality, according to Whittingstall, is simply that 'over-quota' fish are thrown back into the sea as 'discards' where they almost all die.

The campaign says that these discards currently account for almost half of all the fish caught in the North Sea. No records are kept, but the European Union itself estimates the discard rate at between 40% and 60% of total catches.

Whittingstall said: ''Hugh's Fish Fight is supported by a wide coalition of environmental Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and, we hope, by a growing number of fishermen and policy makers too. A vital part of the campaign, and the area where we are currently looking for public support, is the issue of discards at sea.''

One of the ways the chef says we can all influence the sustainability of the fishing industry is by changing our eating habits: many discards are the result of conservative tastes which sees more than half of British fish consumption made up of cod, salmon and tuna, other species become uneconomic to catch and are chucked back into the sea. Whittingstall wants us all to eat more of unfashionable species like flounder, dab, coley and pouting. He's also spearheading a campaign to get mackerel on the menus at British fish and chip shops.

He's enlisted the support of other TV chefs and a number of environmental NGOs: Client Earth, the Marine Conversation Society, the WWF, The Angling Trust, Ocean2012 and Greenpeace and wants individuals to lobby their Members of Parliament in support of an Early Day Motion backing the campaign.

You can sign up for Hugh's Fish Fight campaign at www.fishfight.net where you can add your name to the letter to the European Commissioner responsible for fisheries and find out how to lobby your MP.