Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall takes fish fight to Europe

Tuesday 31 May 2011 13:46 BST
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's campaign against wasting fish went on the road today
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's campaign against wasting fish went on the road today

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's campaign against wasting fish went on the road today - starting in Brussels and destined for Germany, France, Spain and Poland later this year.

The celebrity chef set up stall outside the European Parliament to promote his campaign against a Common Fisheries Policy which effectively encourages fishermen to dump dead fish back in the sea.

Hugh's Fish Fight, launched in the UK last January, has already won praise from the European Commission, which has acknowledged that current catch restrictions have inadvertently created a massive problem of fish "discards".

Today, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki joined Fearnley-Whittingstall to back a campaign publicly endorsed at home by personalities including Sir Richard Branson, Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais, and now expanding from the campaign's main UK website, to take on more websites in 11 other languages.

The food campaigner said: "I am delighted with the huge public support that the Fish Fight campaign has generated in the UK, but we need the rest of Europe with us if we're to change EU policy.

"With the launch of the Fish Fight campaign in more languages, I know we can generate the widespread support we need to ensure that the shameful practice of discarding perfectly good fish is ended."

Ms Damanaki said: "I consider discarding of fish unethical, a waste of natural resources, and a waste of fishermen's effort.

"Only broad societal awareness and public support can bring about real change in fisheries policy. We need effective campaigns like Hugh's Fish Fight to wake up people to support change."

Pressure has been mounting for years for changes to current EU rules which are blamed for encouraging dumping on a massive scale.

The Common Fisheries Policy rules impose catch quota limits on fishing fleets, which are not allowed to land their by-catch - any non-quota fish species they have netted accidentally.

The so-called "discard" is thrown back, dead, into the sea.

The Commission has already signalled it wants to end the waste by proposing a ban under CFP reforms due out later this year.

But some fishing sectors say a total ban is too much, too soon.

The Fish Fight campaign launched in Europe already has 675,000 registered supporters, backing an end to a "discard" practice which sees more than one million tonnes of dead fish thrown back into European waters every year.

Last month, Ms Damanaki rejected claims that the Commission was engaged in "a knee-jerk reaction to a media hype in the UK" in backing an end to discards.

She insisted: "The great majority of our fishermen, especially the coastal fishermen, are complaining that there is no fish in the sea.

"We are also faced with strong public opinion - consumers who are very well-informed and want to know that they are not supporting wasteful practices when they buy fish."

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