Imagine locking the required politicians, scientists and government think tanks together in a room for a week - with the one single aim being a fisheries policy that at least has some shred of workable future and logic to it. Now imagine just about the stupidest thing that could possibly come out of a meeting like that. Surely it would never actually happen would it ? Can you possibly imagine that some of the (theoretically) brightest, most powerful and well-informed people in Europe could have actually come up with a plan actually involves the dumping of who really knows how much perfectly good, dead fish back into the sea ? It had to been some kind of sick joke when they came up with this as some sort of solution to protecting our already fragile fish stocks. And as is often the case, it's often not until you actually see this madness transported into your living room via the medium of television that the complete and utter insanity of it is rammed home.
I think it's time that we gave a TV chef like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall a huge amount of credit for bringing this madness onto our TV screens. I don't know Hugh, but I am aware of what he does, and I know that he likes his fishing. My wife thinks his cooking based programmes are the best out there, and she really admires his whole ethos behind what he does and promotes, but the fact that Hugh is in the public eye as a "TV chef" and then goes out of his way to also work as a food campaigner is something truly admirable. The public wants to see lovely food being prepared on television, but I really admire somebody like Hugh for stepping out of the safety zone and having the guts to go out and make programmes like his "Hugh's Fish Fight" that was on Channel 4 last night - and there are two more shows tonight (Weds) and tomorrow (Thursday). It's part of a big Channel 4 thing called "The Big Fish Fight" - check here.
It does not matter here what our views are on commercial fishing or fish stocks. I would guess that most people reading this blog are involved in some sort of (sport) fishing, and we all have various opinions and thoughts on what is going on out there with regard to fish stocks and sustainability. But I thought that "Hugh's Fish Fight" last night was very clever in not banging on about stuff that was not going to make much of an impact on the viewers - the single most important thing they concentrated on was highlighting the sheer insanity that is having to discard perfectly good but dead fish back in the sea. Regardless that we as (sport) fishermen want to see more and bigger fish to catch, you can not help but have been moved close to tears as we were shown some awesome dead fish spewing out of the side of that north sea trawler. Did you see the size of that coalfish that Hugh held up at one point ? How about those cod ? I used to dream about catching more cod like that from the shore, and it broke my heart to see dead fish being dumped back in the sea. We have all heard about it before, but it's not until you see it happening that it really strikes home.
And herein lies the eternal problem with fish. Out of sight, out of mind. I thought the analogy in the programme about the uproar there would be if we all saw piles of dead lambs on the side of our roads was a very good one. We see animals in our fields, but the general public don't' see the fish. Fish are never going to have the appeal of a cuddly lamb, and even more so because most people never get to see a fish unless it's lying on a slab or in some plastic wrapping on a supermarket shelf. I like what Hugh did in the programme with trying to rally support, and I hope that the collective masses get behind what he is trying to do. The way I see it, there are arguments for and against all manner of things to do with commercial fishing, but try as I might, I can't think of one single solitary argument that says the dumping of perfectly good, dead fish back into the sea to rot or be eaten by crabs is a logical thing to be doing. How could anybody in their right mind ever have dreamt up such a stupid, idiotic and fundamentally wrong way of enforcing fish quotas ?
There is not an angler out there who can argue against at least signing up to Hugh's Fish Fight campaign here, indeed there can not be one single sane person who could say that this campaign was wrong. Go to their Facebook page here as well. No sane person could possibly think for one second that throwing away such magnificent dead fish is a sensible thing to be doing. If the fish were not caught in the first place then the problem would not exist, but it is not for me to comment on the ins and outs of commercial fishing. There is a system in place, and the system is obviously deeply flawed. What we can not do as sport fishermen is to sit there and condemn the whole commercial fishing thing, because that's far too easy a way out. The industry has to fish or work according to the laws that are laid out and implemented, and it is these laws that came across last night as one of the most insane things that I have ever come across. You could not make it up if you tried. To actually see it going on was one of the saddest and most shocking things that I have ever seen on television, and I personally think Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is just awesome for fronting such a hard-hitting programme like that. Out of sight, out of mind our fish may well be, but last night the whole madness of having to legally dump perfectly good fish was at least put there on television for sane people to watch, wonder, and then shout about what on earth we pay these law-makers for..........