Bravo to Fish Fight, but we still need to eat less fish
By Aniol Esteban, Head of Environmental Economics
Getting people excited about fish has never been easy, but since its launch last January, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s FishFight campaign has raised public attention to the fish and the madness of discards like no one had done before.
Yesterday’s episode of Hugh’s FishFight on Channel 4 certainly showed just how successful this campaign has been in what was both a powerful and entertaining programme. In just a few months FishFight has recorded massive successes: they have mobilized over 700,000 supporters mainly in UK, they have forced action from big retailers, and they have successfully changed EU policies to ensure the madness of discards comes to an end. And what’s most important they’ve raised consumer’s awareness about fisheries
This is all good news for fish. Hugh and the FishFight crew deserve congratulations and lots of support to spread the message across Europe; something to which nef’s work on the economics of fair and sustainable fisheris will contribute to.
There was, however, one point in the programme where I had to disagree with Hugh. I just don’t think that eating new species like dab, mackerel or gurnard, as he suggests, will ease pressure on overfished species like cod. Switching species makes ecological sense in theory but there’s no evidence it works in practice. It could actually have a negative effect if it leads to higher levels of fish consumption. Big retailers reporting higher sales of fish show that people are buying new fish species in addition to rather than switching to them and this is a reason for concern.
It might be too early to say whether FishFight has changed people’s habits or increased demand for fish consumption. What is clearer though is that with global fish consumption reaching an all-time record and fish stocks not improving we can’t eat more fish unless we restore fish stocks first.
Creating markets for new species is a small part of a complex solution which has been getting disproportionate attention. We can do much better by investing more efforts in fish stock restoration and fishing more selectively than in promoting markets for new species.
We remain a passionate supporter of FishFight but it’s time to tell people that if we want to eat fish for many years, there’s no other option but to eat less fish. An unpalatable truth which people are reluctant to accept, the good news is that if we eat less fish for a few years we will have much more in the future.
So support FishFight and spread the word but eat less fish too!