Good luck to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his Channel 4 Fish Fight campaign against the maddening discards of dead North Sea cod. He stopped my supermarket-loving mother-in-law from buying battery hens’ eggs from Tesco so I acknowledge his and TV’s powers of persuasion.
His heart is undoubtedly in the right place, but what a wasted opportunity on this week’s programmes to understand the EC’s Common Fishing Policy and the years of British impotence in changing it for the better. There was no serious analysis of what the policy is, what the alternatives are, who drives it and why. I suspect the alternatives – like stop fishing once cod quotas are fulfilled – are equally unacceptable to politicians and fishermen.
We were repeatedly told how complex it is without anyone deigning to tell us what the complexities are. And what does Hugh do when he has the Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon captive for interview at Billingsgate? He subjects him to a test of whether he can correctly identify eight different fish on the slab. Frankly, very few people I know can tell a ling from a coley, a hake from a gurnard, and I don’t think much less of the Minister that he failed the test. I emerged none the wiser as to what the Government policy on discards was, beyond bemoaning them.
Tesco were rightly hung out to dry for their cavalier labelling policy on tinned tuna, courtesy of a Greenpeace investigation, and there was a disturbing insight with impressive access to Marine Harvest’s Scottish fish farms but indulgent sequences of our Hugh swimming with manta rays in the Maldives and much of his showbizzy stunts could happily have been jettisoned for something stronger to chew on.