Heston, Gordon & Jamie start a fish fight with Hugh

Updated on 10 February 2011 | 0 Comments

Britain's best chefs are on a mission to change Britain's fish eating habits and safeguard marine stocks for the future.

When a gang of Britain’s best chefs get together on the telly, you know something’s up. Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have all taken time out from restaurant-running and book writing to appear in Channel 4’s Big Fish Fight throughout January.

The culinary rivals aren’t planning to slap each other about the face with wet kippers. No: they’re on a mission to change Britain’s fish eating habits, to safeguard marine stocks for the future. 

WARNING This clip contains scenes of animal slaughter.

And remember what happened when they took on intensive chicken farming two years ago? It changed the way millions of people thought about buying eggs and poultry, and even big supermarkets like Sainsbury’s were forced to improve their welfare standards.

With the boys now throwing their weight behind dwindling fish stocks, the plan is to do the same for cod, salmon and tuna.

What are the most popular fish we eat in UK?

If you saw the first episode of Hugh’s Fish Fight, you’ll know that these three species account for 50 percent of all the fish we eat in the UK. Add in haddock and prawns, and it’s 80 percent.

One of the reasons we eat so much fish – apart from its deliciousness – is that we’ve been encouraged to cook more of it for years, because it is much better for our health than, say, a sausage. Films like The End of the Line, amongst others, highlighted the threat disappearing species of fish pose to the entire marine ecosystem.

Still, it’s unlikely demand is going to fall any time soon without some drastic action. Of course the chefs don’t want us to stop eating fish altogether. Hugh’s mission, along with Jamie Oliver, is to persuade us to give other species a try in the kitchen – use pollock, dab, mussels, mackerel, coley or trout instead. Or have a go at these Lovefood recipes for Grey Mullet with mussels and roasted garlic or South Coast Dover Sole. 

The good news is, the show is already having an impact. Even before the first episode was screened, Tesco announced it is to swap to 100 percent pole and line caught tuna for its own brand tinned range, by the end of 2012. As Tesco is the biggest fish retailer in the country, and the UK is the world’s second biggest consumer of tuna, this is a significant early success.

Join Hugh’s Fish Fight

Hugh uncovers the shameful practise of “discarding” fish, which is when fish are thrown back into the ocean, dead, because a trawler has already reached its quota for that particular species. It is estimated that over one million tonnes of fish – half the catch – is dumped into the North Sea every year, and Hugh is lobbying parliament to put a stop to it. (To be kept informed about the campaign, follow @BigFishFight on twitter, or signing up to the www.facebook.com/BigFishFight page.)

You might be up for trying out some new types of fish, but would you go as far as Heston Blumenthal in the name of conservation? Known for his outlandish ingredients and cooking methods, he’s serving up sea cucumber, wolf fish and seagull to some famous guests on Friday.

On Sunday, hard man Gordon Ramsay takes on the gang-run international trade in shark fins, a delicacy in Chinese restaurants around the world and sadly still on the menu around the UK. Over 100 million sharks are killed each year for their precious fins alone. Their mutilated corpses are slung back into the ocean and the reduced shark population is putting the ocean’s food chain in jeopardy.

Finally you’ll find new Channel 4 face Arthur Potts-Dawson, restaurateur and ethical eater, questioning the brutal industry of commercial fishing – can it be tamed in some way to meet our fish-eating needs, but remain economical?

Find out about the different varieties of fish available

How has Britain, a nation famed around the world for its love of fish and chips, got to the point where we need lessons on what fish to eat and how to eat it?

The main problem is that we’re so conservative in our fish tastes. Boring, even. It is possible you don’t have a decent fishmonger near you, but the fresh fish counters in supermarkets are often well stocked, so instead of grabbing a packet of salmon or prawns next time you’re doing a shop, go and ask what else is available.

There are also a growing number of reputable online suppliers, such as The Fish Society and Cornwall’s Fish For Thought, which is recommended by Rick Stein and other well-known chefs.

If you’re unsure about the type of fish to buy, check out the Marine Conservation Society’s Fish Online website for more information about endangered species and farmed fish.

Finally, if you eat a lot of fish, it might be time you cut back a little. Just as meat-free days are becoming more popular among non-veggies, you could incorporate some fish-free days into your week – if nothing else, it will keep Hugh, Jamie, Heston and Gordon off their soapboxes for a while!

Also worth your attention:

Facebook page: hughs fish fight

twitter page: @hughsfishfight

Hugh’s Big Fish Fight

Coming soon on Lovefood.com

Mitch Tonks, acclaimed restaurateur, food writer and fishmonger, preparing three delicious seafood dishes from his restaurant The Seahorse in Dartmouth.


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