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I  formed this article, in the main from an email I sent to “Hugh’s Fishfight”. A campaign started by the tv cook Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, if you don’t know about it there’s a link here. I strongly urge you to support it.

It gave us some shocking facts about fishing quotas & brilliantly raised public awareness in the way only a tv chef can. Friends & colleagues have all been talking about it and signing up which can only be a good thing. As climb on to my soapbox once again, I do believe the only real power we have as consumers in our lives is in our wallets, purses and pockets. And we need to carefully consider the choices we make if you care about the planet we live on. Right I’ll climb down now, rant over & stop getting all evangelical (mind you there’s more in the rest of this piece!)

Dear sir/madam,

I’m a big fan of the juicy oily-ness of the mackerel. I recently went to our local branch of Fishminster. Excitedly, I had noticed that they were on your map as offering mackerel on the menu. There’s a link on your website asking customers to report any shops wrongly listed as selling mackerel. So here I am! I know this shop fairly well and it’s (very sadly) the only wet fish shop for miles.

They have a very small but perfectly-formed wet fish slab opening out onto the street selling well-sourced fresh fish. Last year I was extremely excited to find wild sea trout on the slab & went next door to the fruit & veg shop for inspirational accompaniments. By golly it was good, not cheap, but worth every penny. A warm potato salad & salsa verde. I’ll post pictures and recipes at some point.

Last night fish & chips was what we wanted for our Saturday night tea & I quite fancied mackerel for a change & was becoming bored with Cod & Haddock on many menus.

When I arrived at Fishminster they had a delicious-sounding & looking homemade fishcakes, and an equally delicious-sounding spiced chickpea, spinach & beetroot burger. But no mackerel. They had Cod, Haddock, no Pollock (boo!), Hake, squid & some other assorted fishy items (home made fish fingers etc). But no mackerel, I did lookhave a conscience quite hard.

We had the Hake, but of course I had to check when I got home, to assuage my guilt. I thought the Spanish had eaten it all & I was reasonably sure the sustainability situation was dodgy. Fortunately for my guilt it’s on the “good” list of the MSC’s website due to it being fished in the Pacific & South Africa. This doesn’t help my support of British fishermen though does it?? And then horror as I discover Hugh’s book rates it as a 5! Do not eat!!  However Hugh’s ratings are for the European Hake. It was up on the menu, painted on the board, not in chalk, so it’s a pretty frequent menu item, clarification necessary, but do people care enough? I think in the main people don’t, if they did we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.

I understand also that the MSC isn’t infallible (the Cornish Monkfishing quotas are very restrictive & inaccurate if my colleague in fishmongery is to be listened to) and this is a complex issue. Not helped by consumers that don’t ask enough questions. But we don’t do we? We’re not like that as a nation. But if these situations are to change we need to be, and in this particular instance I’m as guilty as the next person.

In fairness this shop really is one of the better ones. (However, Mr Fryer, please don’t eat with your fingers where the customers can see you, whilst you’re cooking their food, it’s not attractive, or hygienic!) They probably have Mackerel on the menu frequently & Saturday night comes after a traditionally-busy Fryday night (see what I did there?).  I also understand that the Fishfight website needs much frequent updating & checking to remain accurate. So this isn’t so much a complaint as a slightly disappointed observation. I was really looking forward to a Mackerel bap with its punchy tartare, and as delicious as the Hake was it didn’t leave as juicy as taste as I was looking for.

For further information & the latest fishy news check the MSC website here.

Update 10.4.11. It’s a miracle I manage to eat anything sometimes! Oh the guilt, the shame, don’t eat this, do eat that. For crying out loud can I not just eat a bag of fish & chips & enjoy it?? Er no, I seem to live my life like this. Although I am getting better and finding some balance in my life, otherwise where does it end? Also, this was an email to HF-W’s gang, so I think I got a bit carried away. Anyway, aside from that I think I do need to get out more!

 Also I’ve been back since & still no mackerel :(


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