Fishing Lines: No reason to drop the monkfish habit

Noel Coward once said to me: "I hate namedroppers." But I really did spend a day's fishing, at his invitation, with the president of the National Federation of Sea Anglers. (OK, not quite as impressive as Mr C, but in sea-fishing circles, he was once a pretty big cheese.)

I'm not quite sure why Leslie Norman invited me on his boat. Just me, the skipper and sea angling's top hitter. Maybe I got the call because I worked on a fishing magazine at the time, and he wanted some good publicity. But he became increasingly irascible every time I caught anything, and when the day ended, he fell somewhat short of saying: "Wow! That was a lot of fun! We must do that again sometime soon!"

If anyone had a reason to be grouchy, it was me. I had hooked a very big fish, and as it came to the surface, Norman grabbed a net to lift it aboard. Instead of hoicking out the fish, though, he tangled my line around the handle. The fish surged, and the line broke.

It's a bit hard to say: "You stupid old fool!" when you're a guest. I probably said: "Ah well. That was bad luck," but smouldered dark dreams of turfing him over the gunwales. He never apologised, either.

What makes that incident stick in my mind was that the fish in question was a monkfish of about 30lb. At the time, it would have been the biggest fish I'd ever caught. I'd never hooked a monkfish before, and haven't since. And my chance of doing so is growing increasingly thin, if you believe the supermarket chain Asda.

This week, they banned monkfish from their supermarkets, saying they would stop selling the fish until the industry took "appropriate action" to ensure the species' long-term survival. They demanded that celeb chefs such as Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay join the boycott.

Asda's reaction is curious. Monkfish, or angler fish, were once listed as vulnerable to overfishing by the Marine Conservation Society, it's true. But the society recently removed monkfish from their "not to eat" list, and ministers even agreed before Christmas to increase quotas after the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea's latest statistics.

Of course, it would be ridiculous to suggest that Asda's attempt to portray themselves as a jolly green giant had anything to do with finishing top (or bottom) two years ago in a list of supermarkets rated for their fisheries policies. A Greenpeace survey had found that Asda sold more threatened species than any other chain, though to be fair, they were equal fifth last year, tying with Tesco and Morrisons.

Fishermen, especially in the South-west, fear the ban could damage their livelihoods. The UK monkfish market is worth £3.8 million and has grown by more than a third in two years.

Strangely, eating monkfish is a very new thing, delicious though they are. My 1987 British Sea Fishes says: "There is no commercial fishery for angler fish." They are invariably sold with the heads cut off, because they look like Jade Goody with fins.

So maybe Leslie Norman was ahead of his time by practising a novel form of catch and release. Or maybe he just didn't like me.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Cumberbatch spectacularly photobombs U2 at the Oscars
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Will menus with calorie counts really deter junk-food addicts from eating junk?
Today's Liverpool Echo back page
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
Life and Style

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

2nd Line server support - Microsoft certified

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large organisa...

Reception Teacher required in Cardiff

£100 - £105 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, Adobe, ...

Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Functional/Full Life Cycle

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Func...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?