Fish friers fight unite

Posted by Calum Richardson of The Bay, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire on 06 March 2013

Guest blog by Calum Richardson of The Bay, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire (www.thebayfishandchips.co.uk) - winner of the Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year Award and the Good Catch Award as part of the 2013 National Fish & Chip Awards.

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 shoot their version of what to do and lead the way. Although this is good, it can also make it very confusing in which message you trust or, more to the point, understand.

So today I contacted the big four publications - Fry Monthly, Chippy Chat, NFFF fish Friers review and Fish, Chips & Fast Food- about all working together to put our point across about our industry - in particular 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 their business, but feel I am in a position to say what, as an industry, we should be doing 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, to what goes on around the world. Although I feel it was still a very one-sided story, and misleading in parts, it has never-the-less worked and helped to change things around the world.

His latest series, however, which concluded last week, is very misleading and one-sided. For example:

  • He 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, however this cannot be further from the truth. Take Scottish haddock as an example, which is MSC certified, and therefore means the stock is fully reproductive and 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 rig and didn't explain where this happens. For instance, I have seen langoustines fished and watched the sonar show all old courses that had good hauls and, time-after-time, they get the same results on the same tow line, which contradicts the one-sided story.

What Hugh doesn't realise is that his biased journalism is having 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 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 think all scallops are bad now but this is not the case, and 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 move forward with schemes like Conversation Credits. Here fishermen instigate ideas to become more sustainable and if the methods work, then the EU approve 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 and all sing from the same hymn sheet. I strongly believe in buying fish from local suppliers as we are an island nation and if we don't support these guys then they will be extinct before the fish is. However, I know this cannot always be the case due to price and personal preference, but the key thing 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 now. This allows you to see which fish is good and which you should avoid. It also tells you what grounds are good and what fishing methods are recommended.

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 move forward and prove we do care, not just for today but future years to come. By all working together, we can take one message and advance forward. Every industry is changing in this current climate, but let's move our industry forward as one and in one direction.

I am on the end of the phone and can be contacted by emailing me at info@thebayfishandchips.co.uk

Follow more of Calum's insights over the coming year in his regular columns at www.fry-online.co.uk

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