The recent news that our seas around the world are overfished and that fishermen continue to discard half the fish caught due to political quotas, is having a big impact on the types of fish that it’s advised that we can eat. To the normal fish eater, knowing which species of fish are sustainable to eat can be confusing, and the Marine Conservation Society a while back reclassified mackerel due to overfishing in the northeast Atlantic.
The reclassification of mackerel has thrown the spotlight onto which fish we should or should not eat, and where we should be sourcing our fish from. I believe we should be eating all kinds of fish, and not steering clear of the fish that are deemed to be in short supply. If everyone starts eating the fish that are in plentiful supply and being sustainably managed, these fish will become over used and unsustainable – it’s a vicious circle where we just move from one fish to the next and the problem is never solved.
A perfect example of this is the humble mackerel. Not so long ago, it was the fish that no-one could get rid of, sitting lonely on the fish counter. Watch a fisherman bring in his catch and you would always hear a little murmur ‘oh it’s only a blooming mackerel again’. Mackerel has had a hard time, until recently, when it became the fish du jour and a must-eat dish. The mackerel was in its heyday and would not look out of place on a top restaurant dish competing against the best of them.
Now, because of the lack of international agreement about the quotas that can be fished, it’s recommended that we should only eat mackerel on occasion. The vast majority of mackerel is sold to overseas buyers and each year, 850,000 tones of mackerel is caught and sold. A tiny proportion (approx. 2,000 tonnes) of this is landed by the traditional Cornish handling fleet.
The most sustainable way to choose fish and to not worry about whether you should eat it or not, is to buy from a local day boat that either uses a static net or the traditional line- catching methods. Buying locally caught fish in this way has very little impact on the sea: fish taken are landed and caught in the most sustainable way possible and you support the local economy. If you buy like this, there is no reason why you can’t enjoy that unspoken word ‘cod’, or any other fish you enjoy such as sardines, herrings and crabs.
For me I’m always looking at which types of fish we should be serving on our menus. I only use sustainably caught fish and if it’s not available from the fishermen, then I won’t put fish on the menu.
The only fish I eat generally is the fish I catch – so not very much! If you want to continue eating fish, make sure it’s caught locally, or even better, go out and to try to catch your own, you’ll never have it fresher or tastier, and it gives you the biggest grin when you finally lift out a fish out from the water, even if it’s a good old mackerel!