Fishfight Musings

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign highlights a shocking truth that about half the fish caught in the North Sea catch is thrown back dead - part driven by EU quotas and part by the UK’s preference to eat just three fish species.  The solution is two-fold; change the quota system and change UK eating habits.  Read on for more info on the Fish Fight and for some tasty ideas for alternative fish.  Watch the video Fishfight on YouTube.

Each time the nets are drawn in, unwanted bycatch is caught.  The bycatch is fish which either won’t sell, or fish for which the trawler has used its full quota.  The unwanted fish, including threatened species, is thrown back dead known as “discarding”.  At fish, you can read more about Hugh’s campaign to reform EU fishing laws and change the UK’s fish eating habits.  You can also support a petitioning letter which will be sent to the EU, MEPs and the fishing policy reform group.  Three TV episodes fronted by Hugh can be seen on 4OD, as can a series shorts by Jamie Oliver demonstrating recipes different types of fish.

Once signed up, help drive demand for other fish species by eating a fish that’s not Cod, Tuna or Salmon.  These three species apparently make up 50% of the total fish eaten in the UK.  A handy Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) guide shows which fish to try to buy and which to try to avoid in order to ease pressure on fish stocks.
Jamie Oliver’s Fish Suppers include Coley Korma.  This is a quick and easy fish dish, with the added bonus of being really cheap too.  Check out the full recipe here.  You’ll be surprised at how simple and tasty the dish is.  Buy cheap filleted Coley and this curry could become a regular feature on your menu.  The photo above (from C4Website) shows the dish!

You can’t go too wrong with barbequed or grilled Mackerel or Sardines.  If you’re put off by the pin bones, serve with crusty bread and you won’t notice them at all.  Hugh tries to get fried Mackerel baps on the chippy menu here.  Try also herring – like this previous post did, again, cheap, quick and tasty.

In a previous whatiatetoday post about Mussels explained how to gather and prepare wild Mussels.  If you buy sustainably farmed Mussels, either fresh or frozen, they’ll already be clean ready to go; you can knock up the same tasty recipe in minutes.

At the chip shop, consider Coley or Hake in batter.  It’s worth giving them a try and they’re often cheaper than Haddock or Cod.

Far from wanting to sound like a lecture, I hope this post will make you consider trying different types of fish, and consider why it may be that so few species are eaten in the UK.  In truth, I was prompted to blog this when I realised that I rarely cook fish and I don’t know why not.  It can be extremely hard to find alternative fresh fish in your local supermarket.  Most fresh fish in supermarkets is filleted and packaged up and not on a wet fish counter unless your lucky.  The fillets don’t look like fish being presented trimmed, skinless and boneless or a thick fish steaks.  Does fish which looks like fish not sell?

Salmon and Tuna steaks appear and are cooked more like meat than fish.  Perhaps this is key in understanding why other fish don’t appeal.  Are the supermarkets playing safe and stocking what sells?  A more sinister, if speculative explanation for the small number of species on sale, may be that it is quicker and cheaper to produce boneless fillets from salmon, cod and tuna, than from other species.  Is the large supermarket’s desire to minimise costs whilst maintaining “quality” driving them to use endangered species?  Or is it simply that people don’t feel confident with fish they don’t know.

Within days of launching his campaign, Hugh had large chains rushing to drop suppliers and badge fresh fish with “sustainable”, “approved”, or “line caught” labels.  Sadly, they still stock the same few species.  I am nervous about buying expensive fish which I don’t know how to cook, which may have lots of bones or make the kitchen smell of fish.  One of the great things about the fish Hugh advocates is that they are cheap.  At the end of the day, if you’re nervous about fish, it’s easy to see why big juicy tuna and salmon steaks are a safe bet and good value.  However, variety is the spice of life.  With many of the fish Hugh believes we should eat being so affordable, it’s defintilely worth trying some of them during these more austere times.  In the words of Dr Pepper, “try it, you might like it…”