Save our fish

January, 14 2011 our Fish
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall leads a campaign to change the fish we eat - and how it's caught
interview by Geoff Ellis for RadioTimes, UK January 8, 2011

"The decline in fish stocks is something we should all be alarmed about - we know for example, that cod stocks in the North Sea are only 10-15 per cent of what they were in their heyday. Given the extraordinary amounts of fish that are being removed every year, it's very hard to predict what's going to happen next. But it's not an option for us to carry on as we are.

By a large margin, cod, salmon and tuna are the fish we eat more than other species. If you're someone who cooks those fish and rarely any others, then you need to change. For every meal you have of cod, tuna or farmed salmon, you owe it to yourself to eat another meal using a different species of fish. That goes for cod in fish fingers or fish ckaes and probably for haddock, too. Match every serving with another serving of a different fish.

There is no shortage to choose from. Look for gurnard, black bream, mackerel, flounder and dab. They are only just now making their way into the mainstream, but more and more you'll see these and some other fish nicely filleted and laid out on the fishmonger's slab. Make a resolution never to eat the same fish twice. And if you like farmed salmon , maybe you should try sampling the smaller, oily fish that they are fed on. Try sardines, mackerel, herring and sprats.

Choose mackerel not cod
We have started a campaign to get mackerel on the menu at chip shops. It's a fabulous fish, sustainable and there's a lot of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified mackerel out there. But people are like robots in fish and chip shops and always have cod or haddock and chips. So we've come up with a hot mackerel bap - instead of cod try fillets of mackerel served very lightly battered and deep fried, served in a soft roll with tartare sauce or horseradish.

The problem with salmon
It's bonkers that force of habit and the power of retail marketing means that we've come to depend so heavily on cod, tuna (another casualty of overfishing) and salmon.

Farmed salmon - those lovely pink fillet of easy-to-cook fish with no bones - is being put out there as a solution to over-fishing. But for every kilo of farmed salmon , you need to kill three kilos of wild fish to turn into feed for the farmed salmon, It's not a good deal environmentally. It's where a species called tilapia - which you might have seen appearing in the shops - can come in because they are a vegetarian fish, so they don[t come with the same environmental debt.

The madness of quotas
The big issue I want people to be agitated about is the throwing away of dead fish by fishermen at sea. It happens on staggering scale. In the North Sea, of all the fish being caught by trawlers, close to half are being thrown back dead.

Some of those are under-size, but a lot are prime cod, haddock, whiting, coley - all mainstream species. When the fishermen have used up their limited quota (set up to protect dwindling fish stocks) for these, they go on fishing for other species such as monkfish, sole and plaice for which they do have quotas, and have to discard everything else that gets caught in their nets. Net that don't have a sign on telling the fish they're allowed to be caught!

Everyone knows this practise is wrong - no one will defend it - and our intention is that the public should know about it, express their outrage and get it stopped. I want people to sign up the Fish Fight campaign to send a letter to the European Commission fisheries minister Maria Damanaki. The Common Fishery Policy is up for reform and whatever else is done, I believe the discarding of perfectly edible fish at see has to be stopped.

Hugh's Fish Fight is on Channel 4 on 13 January at 9pm. To sign up to the campaign, visit

This evening you will see me challenge Tesco and Princes over their tinned tuna, which their suppliers catch by purse seining, where massive fishing boats with 2km-long nets lasso whole shoals of tuna. They also use controversial fish aggregation devices (Fads), which are floating rafts anchored to the sea floor designed to attract shoaling fish. Fads are highly effective at enticing tuna shoals for the purse seiners to surround with their nets, but they also dramatically increase the bycatch of the "wrong" species – including turtles, sharks and rays.

On Monday, Greenpeace published its assessment of the supermarkets' ecological rating for tuna. Tesco was due to come last on the list, but anticipating our shows and the Greenpeace findings, it announced at the weekend that it would be switching its entire own-brand tuna to the far more sustainable pole and line method of fishing. It leaves Princes stranded bottom of the league table – but the company has at least indicated it will withdraw from its tins the claim – outrageous, in my view – that Princes is "fully committed to fishing methods that protect the marine environment and marine life".

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Thanks so much for your support so far!

"If you caught the shows I hope you enjoyed them – and I hope they made you angry too.

The great news is that people have been signing up like mad to the anti-discards petition on the website – at this moment in time we've passed the 265,000, which is phenomenal.

I’m beginning to think – a bit wildly perhaps – that it might not be impossible to get 1/2 a million supporters on this issue. And if we can do that we will make a huge impact.

The campaign was actually referenced in a speech yesterday by European Fisheries Commissioner  Maria Damanaki, and very positively. We are being heard where it matter.

But we want more - can you help spread the word yet further? Tweet, Facebook or semaphore your support whenever you get the chance.

Mention the campaign, and, whenever you can. Help us take the fish fight to the people!

pole fishing

die Pol-Fischerei.


Troll-Fischerei. fishing

die Linienfischerei
la pisciculture.
die Fischzucht

 net fishing net fishing

 net fishing

die Topf-Fischerei.

types of sea fish - how to eat them sustainably 

by Marine Conservation Society


help fight pollution, overfishing and damage to marine habitats

French , German tuna - "dolphin-friendly" pole and line or troll-caught in Central pacific or Maldives.

Le thon  der Tunfisch Salmon - farmed only, organic labelled.

le saumon - der Lachs Salmon (Chum, Chinook, Coho, Pink or Red) MSC-certified fisheries from Alaska and Canada.

le saumon - der Lachs Cod - North East Arctic or MSC-certified from line-caught fisheries.

le cabillaudder Kabeljau Cod - Bering Sea and Aleutian island, MSC-certified from line-caught fisheries

le cabillaud pacifique - - North East Arctic or MSC-certified from line-caught fisheries

un aiglefin - der Schellfisch or cold-water prawn - North-East Arctic or MSC-certified from trawls fitted with sorting grids. 

la crevette rose - die Garnelle Prawn or Tiger Prawn - farmed only, organic labelled.

die Riesengarnelle - Eastern Channel - South-West England or MSC-certified hand-line or drift net caught fisheries.

 le maquereau - die Makrele (adult) or sardine. Caught as pilchards in South-West England using drift or ring nets.

la sardine  - die Sardine or lythe - line caught. or scampi - pot or creel-caught. 

la langoustine or slid - Celtic sea. North Sea or MSC-certified drift net, purse seine or pelagic trawl.

le hareng - der Hering - this species is generally overexploited in European waters. Gill or fixed net fisheries or MSC-certified are the better choices. 

la plie - die Scholle - rope-grown moule - die Miesmuschel

bass or sea-bass - line caught and tagged or gill net caught from UK waters, MSC-certified fisheries. and brown crab - Pot caught (European) or MSC-certified rock lobster. 

le homard - der Hummer or saithe - North Sea, North-East Arctic hand line-caught. - trap and fixed net. Otter trawled also available.

 le flet - der Flunder - trap and fixed net. otter trawled also available. - North Sea

le sprat - die Sprotte - (Dover Sole) Eastern Channel, Celtic Sea, gill or seine net. Also MSC-certified fisheries (Lemon Sole) Seine net or otter trawled.

la sole