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Fish Friers

Fish Friers Unite

Article Date: 2013-03-05


I decided today that we, as a fish and chip industry, need to move as a united front and not all pull in different directions.

This is difficult when you have four big magazines all wanting to report their individual versions. Although this is good, it can also make it very confusing to comprehend which message to trust or, more to the point, understand.

So today I contacted the big four publications – The Fish Friers Review, Fry Monthly, Chippy Chat and Fish, Chips & Fast Food – about all working together to put our point across about our industry – particularly in relation to Hugh’s Fish Fight. I was delighted that they all wanted the same goal and felt it was best to tackle this very sensitive matter together as a united industry. I applaud you all for this.

I am in no position to tell anyone how to run a business, but feel I am in a position to say that, as an industry, we should be doing something to combat what is going on around us.

I feel Hugh’s first Fish Fight series about discards was needed and was a great way to open the eyes of not only the public, but of the industry as a whole. Although I feel it was still a very one-sided story – and in parts misleading – it has nevertheless worked and helped to change things around the world. 

His latest series, however, which concluded last week, is very distorted and biased. For example:

Hugh didn’t show the fishing industry in good light and, although they were happy to say what percentage of water is protected, they did not say what percentage of water is fished in.

He was heavy on saying that fish stocks were depleting. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Take Scottish haddock, for example, which is MSC certified, and therefore means the stock is fully reproductive and is being fished sustainably. Cod stocks, too, are showing massive recovery signs and are on the way to being back at full strength. 

Hugh’s treatment of dredging showed one set of rigs and he didn’t explain where this happens. For instance, I have seen langoustines fished and watched the sonar show all old courses which had good hauls and, time and again, they get the same results on the same tow line. This contradicts the one-sided story. 

What Hugh doesn’t realise is that his biased journalism has a negative impact on our industry. I sell hand-dived scallops from Guy Grieve which, in my opinion, are the best scallops money can buy and are the most ethical: they are hand-picked, but more importantly, Guy sets breeding grounds at sea so he can keep stocks up long-term. Last week was the first week that I didn’t sell all my scallops; the consumer just thinks all the scallops are now bad but this is not the case. Having to discard scallops in the bin is not sustainable, Hugh.

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe the fishing industry has to improve, but what’s not being recognised are the positive moves fishermen are making to progress with schemes like Conservation Credits. Here fishermen instigate ideas to become more sustainable and if the methods work, then the EU approves them, giving boats more days at sea. This wasn’t shown in Hugh’s Fish Fight. Neither were the 300 boats which now make up Seafish’s Responsible Fishing Scheme. 

This is where we have to unite. I strongly believe in buying fish from local suppliers as we are an island nation. If we don’t support these guys then they will be extinct before the fish are.

That said, I know this cannot be the case due to price and personal preference. However, the key is to buy sustainable fish from a sustainable ground. 

An easy way to be sure is to look at the MCS Fish to Eat guide, which you can even download onto your phone as an app. This allows you to see which fish are good and which you should avoid. It also tells you which grounds are good and what fishing methods are recommended. It’s not a given that all Norwegian fish are sustainable, as the situation constantly changes.

Another sure-fire way to tell is to look for the MSC “blue tick”, which certifies that the species is sustainably sourced. 

If we as an industry work together and help each other, then we can prove we care – not just for today but for future years to come. Every industry is changing in this current climate, but let’s move our industry forward as one, and in the right direction.

I can be contacted by telephone, or by e-mail which is:

Calum Richardson


Fish Friers