Swimming with Hugh

I just received an invitation to add my name to a mass public protest organised by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Apparently Hugh has just realised that, quote, 'half the fish caught and killed by fishermen in the north sea are immediately thrown back' - 'wasted' says the protest letter. Now, like many/most people I am an arch-conservationist and instinctively support almost anything that minimises our negative impact on the wildlife of planet earth, but I have two minor problems and one major one with Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall's stance.

Is this not the same Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall who was seen on TV swimming for the cameras within a salmon farm ring some few years ago, surrounded by hundreds of those awful, demented 'kings of fish'? (Since when we have refused to watch his otherwise excellent River Cottage programs.) The same celebrity chef who champions this most unnatural of cruel new industries? The industry that has decimated the ancient wild salmon and sea trout fisheries of the rivers and the lochs of the lovely Wester-Ross in which I live?

Secondly I take issue with the word 'waste'. Hugh and all of us should remember that all life dies and is then recycled by that complex eco-system of which he, I , you and all things are a part. Because a fish is not consumed by we humans does not mean it is 'wasted'. As the chief executive of BP recently declared, to the horror and consequent vilification of all good Americans, the ocean is large enough to take care of itself. (He should have added, 'thus far'.)

No, I am not saying that catching and killing and discarding fish is a good idea. But I am saying that scientists who spend a lifetime studying the subject, and who are now unanimous in support of the EEC's attempts to conserve, are more likely to be right than an attention seeking celebrity chef or two - or individual owners of  the massive catch vessels intent overwhelmingly and understandably on paying back their banks.

So too is Charles Glover's brilliant and comprehensive study, The End of the Line more likely to be right. If you haven't the time or haven't sufficient interest to read it, have a click right here on http://endoftheline.com/

So now to my major concern: if we don't want to kill billions of fish without eating them why not simply stop catching them? I'm talking about a moratorium on all fishing by boats of more than, say, thirty feet in length, and in all of the North Sea, for a fixed period of say five years? Ask any old enough fisherman about what happened to 'our' fish stocks after World War Two when, for some five years, only a much reduced fishing effort was possible. So lay up the factory boats and give the fishing industry the same money from the exchequer - our exchequer - as it would have made from fishing during the period of the moratorium. This would be a positive investment of public money, in place of a Trident or two perhaps, with huge returns for all of us in the future.

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