Fish Fight aims to draw attention to the huge number of fish that are thrown overboard by North Sea fishermen who have exceeded the catch quotas set out by European Union laws, or because the fish are too small or of the wrong species.
Describing the practice as an “insane waste”, Fearnley-Whittingstall is hoping to build up pressure on the European fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, to make stopping it a “primary objective” at talks held in the new year.
The campaign will be launched officially in January 2011, with the broadcast of a new programme, Hugh’s Fish Fight.
While there is no way to establish an exact figure, scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas believe that more than 60 per cent of all fish caught in the North Sea are discarded. This figure rises to 90 per cent for cod aged a year or under.
Most of the fish thrown back are major fish such as cod, haddock, coley, whiting and plaice, quotas of which have been exceeded by the fisherman. Returning to port with over-quota catches would be illegal under EU laws.
In his open letter to the commissioner, members of the European Parliament and all member state governments, Fearnley-Whittingstall writes: “I have seen images of dead and dying fish discarded in European waters.
“I understand that the current Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) leads to discarding on a vast scale – for example, half of all fish caught in the North Sea are being discarded because of the current quota system imposed by the CFP.
“I want this senseless waste of food to end. I want you to use your influence to stop this unacceptable and shameful practice. I am supporting the Fish Fight campaign to help bring about this vital change in our seas.”
Almost 35,000 people have already joined the campaign – by signing up your name will be added to a letter to be sent to the fisheries commissioner, members of the Common Fisheries Policy Reform Group, and all MEPs. Read the letter here.