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Don't stall on reform, chefs tell Europe's fishing chiefs


May 30 2012 Lewis Smith


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Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall is among the chefs calling for radical fisheries reforms

Leading chefs and restaurateurs from the UK have called for a radical overhaul of Europe’s “unacceptable” rules on fishing.

Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall are among those who are demanding labelling of fish to be improved, discards ended and sustainable management of fisheries to be compulsory and enforced.

The demands go further than the call for the banning of discards last year by the Fish Fight campaign masterminded by Mr Fearnley Whittingstall with support from Mr Oliver and others.

Chefs from around the UK and several cities in Europe signed up to the demand organised by Fish2fork, the online sustainable restaurant guide, following a plea for help from European fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki.

Among them are chefs of Michelin starred restaurants including Philip Howard of The Square, Gary Jones of Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, and Andrew Fairlie, of Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Martin Wishart, of Restaurant Martin Wishart, and Simon Radley of the Chester Grosvenor Hotel.

Others include Tim Hughes, chef director of Caprice Holdings which owns several of the most fashionable restaurants in London, including The Ivy, and Tom Aikens of Restaurant Tom Aikens.

Earlier this year Ms Damanaki revealed that her proposals for reform have met with stiff resistance in parts of Europe and she urged chefs to strengthen her hand by backing her with a public show of support.

She was delighted by the response and said after learning more than 70 top chefs and restaurateurs have signed the demand: “Thanks to all the chefs who make this message heard. We should all listen to them!

“The chefs play a crucial role in bringing the message across to the general public and policymakers. We have a once in a decade chance to get our fisheries policy right and this can only be achieved by signing up to reform. It is urgent.”

Charles Clover, co-founder of Fish2fork and author of The End of The Line, said the demands made by chefs illustrated the groundswell of support among restaurateurs and their customers for measures that ensure easily identifiable supplies of seafood from sustainable sources.

Of the world’s fisheries 32 per cent are overfished and in Europe the situation is even worse with more than 70 per cent fished unsustainably, including iconic fish such as the bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.

North Sea cod are on the way back slowly having been heavily overfished in the past but the recovery is hampered by the level of discards – hundreds of thousands of cod are tossed back dead or dying each year among up to 900,000 tonnes of fish discarded in the North Sea annually.

Discards are not just allowed but are encouraged by the Common Fisheries Policy, described as “broken” by UK fisheries minister Richard Benyon. The policy also fails to ensure that fisheries are managed so that they are sustainable or that labelling provides the level of detail needed by consumers to make informed choices about the fish they buy.

Mr Clover said: “Chefs and retailers are going to end up with the grief from the public if this reform does not deliver radically more sustainable fisheries. So they want Damanaki's reforms to succeed or they will spend ten more years trying to work out which fish they can serve with a clean conscience. Why should they have to? We are asking Europe's chefs to sign up to this petition for a radical reform of Europe's fisheries policies, an easier life - and more sustainable seafood on every plate."

Tim Hughes, of Caprice, described the present fisheries rules as unacceptable and said an end to discards, as demanded by the Fish Fight campaign that now has 800,000 signatories, is the priority: “It’s the one I feel really strongly about because of the waste of it all. Those are good fish that are being thrown away. It’s just ridiculous. Some countries haven’t got any food but we’re throwing it away.”

Tom Aikens also identified discards as the most important part of the reforms being championed by Ms Damanaki: “Discards is the main one. I don’t think people have a real grasp of that problem.”

The first tranche of chefs to sign up to the Fish2fork demands were announced in Paris on Tuesday night] at the French launch of the award-winning documentary film The End of the Line.

More than 70 top chefs and restaurateurs have signed the demand. They include chefs who have some of the best records in the UK on marine sustainability such as Jim Cowie of The Captain’s Galley, Mick Smith of the Porthminster Beach Cafe, and Anshu Anghotra of 140 Park Lane. Among the signatories from across the Channel are Nicolae Lica, of the JW Bucharest Marriott Grand Hotel, and Mickael Foubert, of the Renaissance arc de Triomphe in Paris.


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