South West chef and food campaigner takes his Fish Fight to Brussels - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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South West chef and food campaigner takes his Fish Fight to Brussels

Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the celebrity chef from the South West, kicked off his European campaign to end fish discards outside the European Parliament in Brussels today.

Launched in the UK last January, the chef’s Fish Fight campaign to end the practice of discards – whereby fish are thrown back into the sea usually dead by European fishermen to ensure they meet fishing quotas - has already won praise from the European Commission and in particular the Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki who attended the rain-soaked launch in person.


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The Commissioner is currently deciding how to reform the EU’s current Common Fisheries Policy and has acknowledged that current catch restrictions have inadvertently created a massive problem of fish "discards". But full details of her reforms will not be known until 13th July.

After unveiling a large shipwreck monument including a live counter displaying how many had already lodged their support to the cause, Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall declared it a “massive day for the Fish Fight campaign, and for the mission to end the insanely wasteful practise of discarding thousands of tonnes of fine edible fish at sea”.

This scandalous activity, which fishermen, conservationists and the fish-eating public all abhor,” he said “is the final insult of a Common Fisheries Policy that is universally agreed to be broken, and no longer fit for purpose.

We promised we would bring their petition here to Brussels and hand it over to our European Fisheries Commissioner [and] to my delight, the number of names on that petition now stands at over 676,000 and it’s still rising every hour of every day, and I’ve come to Brussels to honour my pledge to every single one of those Fish Fighters.

Ms Damanaki, again pronouncing her public support for the campaign, said: "I consider discarding of fish unethical, a waste of natural resources, and a waste of fishermen's effort. Only broad societal awareness and public support can bring about real change in fisheries policy. We need effective campaigns like Hugh's Fish Fight to wake up people to support change."

The campaign website - fishfight.net - will now be accessible in 11 European languages.

While the chef’s campaign was described as “too little too late” by UKIP leader Nigel Farage, South West MEP Julie Girling has welcomed the campaign to Brussels stating it needed to become Europe-wide to bring about change.

Ms Girling, who sits on the parliament’s Fisheries Committee (PECH) said, “It’s all very well the UK being exercised about it, and we are very keen to ensure we get a resolution of discards, but there are lots of countries in Europe that think they have no interest in this, such as landlocked countries, and it’s really important that they too get on board.

They eat fish; they may not catch them, but they certainly do eat them, and this is all about awareness so that when we come to the negotiations in Council and in Parliament every one of the 27 member states has a voice and many of them chose not to exercise it when it comes to fishing issues,” she said.

(Julie Girling quote from audio produced by Quadrant for UK radio stations)

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