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Waste not, want not

‘I want everyone to be as angry as I am,’ says Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and I hope he succeeds for the thing that makes him so angry is one of the things that makes me most angry, too: the senseless eradication of the world’s fish stocks.

15 January 2011

12:00 AM

15 January 2011

12:00 AM

‘I want everyone to be as angry as I am,’ says Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and I hope he succeeds for the thing that makes him so angry is one of the things that makes me most angry, too: the senseless eradication of the world’s fish stocks.

‘I want everyone to be as angry as I am,’ says Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and I hope he succeeds for the thing that makes him so angry is one of the things that makes me most angry, too: the senseless eradication of the world’s fish stocks.

All this week on Channel 4, HF-W has been campaigning in a series of programmes called Hugh’s Fish Fight. In the first episode he set the scene nicely by going out with a trawler into the fishing grounds 80 miles off the north Scottish coast. There he was appalled to see the trawler haul in nets teeming with cod: appalled because every one of those cod had to be chucked back, dead, because the trawler had already exhausted its annual EU quota. An estimated one million tonnes of fish in the North Sea alone are wasted like this every year.

‘But don’t you think there might be a sound conservation argument for these regulations?’ Hugh dutifully asked. The skipper shook his head. And he’s right. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to this disgraceful squander, except that it gives the EU bureaucrats and useless outfits like their fish-stock monitoring agency ICES the illusion that they are making a difference.


Apart from getting angry, mobilising his Dorset posse and getting lots more TV exposure — including a trip diving with manta rays in the Maldives: nice one, Hugh — HF-W’s most immediate solution to the problem was to persuade his audience to do their bit by eating fewer scarce fish (cod, tuna) and more sustainable fish.

The problem in my book is that where fish are concerned, the word ‘sustainable’ translates as ‘crap-tasting rubbish that no one used to eat before — and with damned good reason’. Pollack, for example: it’s a very, very, VERY poor man’s cod. As for mackerel, though it’s fine if eaten straight off the boat, it’s hardly what you’d call a gastronome’s go-to delicacy. No, Hugh. You have not persuaded me that next time I visit my local chippy what I really want is lightly battered, deep-fried mackerel served in a bap. Why not? Because I like bloody cod, that’s why.

Of course, had he been so minded, Hugh could have saved himself a lot of bother by going straight to the real cause of the problem: his old Eton mucker, Dave Cameron. Sure, it’s not JUST Dave’s fault. But Dave was personally responsible for shelving what was hitherto Conservative party policy: a commitment unilaterally to withdraw from the EU’s disastrous Common Fisheries Policy and manage Britain’s fisheries more sensibly.

The reason Dave killed it was that it would cause too much of a ruckus in the EU. Which is fine if you believe the main purpose of a politician is to explain why ‘the system’ won’t allow you to scrap idiot regulations. Perhaps that’s why some of us so loathe politicians for, from the outside, it looks like a no-brainer. Dumping one million tonnes of perfectly good fish into the sea is plain wrong. It’s bad for nature, it’s bad for fishermen, it is sheer unutterable madness. Ergo, it should be stopped, regardless of how many Cleggs and Cables it offends or how many EU snouts it puts out of joint.

Meanwhile on BBC2, Bruce Parry has started to see the light. I love Bruce Parry, not least because I suspect he shares my appetite for exotically altered states. Yes, he’s an ex-Royal Marine fitness instructor but he’s also very obviously a fellow refugee of the pills and clubs generation. Whether he’s consulting Shaman in Siberia, tripping out on some crazy South American hallucinogen, eating fresh seal’s innard, or sucking the blood from a freshly amputated reindeer antler, the real purpose of his trips is to enjoy more trips.

Where we’ll disagree, I’m sure, when we eventually meet and chill, is on the subject of environmentalism. Parry subscribes more or less to the eco-left’s narrative about global warming; I don’t. So what’s really pleasing about his new series Arctic with Bruce Parry are the signs that he’s beginning to wobble. On a seal-hunting expedition with the Inuit in Northern Greenland, he expressed surprise that the locals seemed more concerned about environmentalist busybodies than they were about ‘Climate Change’.

That’ll be because if you spend most of your working day at minus 40 degrees on the icepack dressed in polar-bear fur and seal-skin, there simply isn’t time to keep up with the latest articles by George Monbiot telling you what needs to be done to save the Arctic. As far as the Inuit hunters are concerned, it’s simple: ‘Leave us alone so we can hunt for food and fur in the way our ancestors did, unencumbered by government quotas created as a result of lobbying by metropolitan eco-nuts who wouldn’t know what real conservation was if it bit them on the arse.’


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