menu

Jay Rayner: Have We Now Overfished Mackerel?

Jay Rayner: Have We Now Overfished Mackerel?
Luxury

Dwindling stocks of this fish have pushed consumers to ponder: to eat, or not to eat?

Jay Rayner, Guardian
  • 31 january 2013

Image credits and copyright: telegraph.co.uk 


Powered by Guardian.co.uk
This article titled “Food shopping is full of ethical grey areas. Be careful what you buy – or fish will be a luxury” was written by Jay Rayner, for The Observer on Sunday 27th January 2013 00.06 UTC

It used to be straightforward: cod was being overfished, so you knew not to eat it. Bluefin tuna was out of bounds. And don’t even think of ordering the marlin steaks, unless you have the filthy environmental conscience of a natural gas fracking mogul.

But these were edicts issued when the only certainty was the crisis in fishing stocks; at a time when sustainability was regarded as, at best, a fringe issue. Now questions of sustainability have entered the mainstream and curiously that has made everything more complicated. More vested interests are involved and it has all become heavily political.

Certainly it made last week’s announcement that mackerel – for so long regarded as the last bastion of plenty in the seas – should come off the menu very complicated indeed.

Of course, the advice to avoid eating this lovely oily fish has consequences for the fishing industry. But spare a thought, too, for the poor consumer, caught in the middle desperately trying to work out what they should and shouldn’t be eating. It isn’t clear cut.

As has been reported, mackerel stocks are very healthy. But they have migrated northwards into Icelandic waters, apparently as a result of climate change. The Icelandic fleet is pulling mackerel out of the sea like it’s the gold rush and they have hit a rich seam.

The Marine Conservation Society, which issued last week’s advice, predicts that at current fishing rates stocks will fall below sustainable levels within the next couple of years. The society is trying to use its consumer reach to force the European Union and Iceland to the negotiating table to agree on quotas.

In the meantime, those wanting to eat mackerel should eat only those caught via traditional methods, for example using handlines, drift nets or ring nets. In short, it’s both OK and not OK to eat mackerel. And all you were hoping for was something to cook for your tea.

This is not the only grey area. Late last year celebrity chefs and food writers were criticised for publishing recipes utilising monkfish, because stocks are no longer sustainable. It turned out not to be true. Some monkfish fisheries are imperilled; others are not.

Likewise, the prohibition on cod is no longer as black and white as it once was. There may be question marks over the North Atlantic fishery, but in the Barents Sea a small rise in temperatures has led to a biomass explosion. The fishery is in a better shape than it has been for 60 years.

How does the ethically minded shopper navigate these switchbacks and hairpin bends?

As with all food issues these days we have a responsibility to educate ourselves; shopping passively is a luxury we can no longer afford. That means going online and seeking out sites such as the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide.

But the retailers also have a part to play, especially the big supermarkets. We have given them a free run at the retail market, more than 80% of which they now control. With that comes a responsibility to educate the consumer. It is, of course, customary to knock the supermarkets, so credit where credit is due. It so happens that on Friday Sainsbury’s held a “Switch a fish day”. Customers asking for one of the so-called big five species – cod, tuna, salmon, haddock and prawns – were offered a free sample of another sustainable species, such as sardine (recommended by the society as a replacement for mackerel), coley or trout. It was an attempt to spread fish purchases across a wider selection of species, so as to relieve the pressure. We need more such initiatives.

By coincidence today’s restaurant review, in the Observer Magazine, is of an excruciatingly expensive fish restaurant at a fancy London hotel: a plate of brill for £30; some humble mackerel for an eye-popping £19. It’s ludicrous and dispiriting. But unless more of us become sustainability-savvy, unless we look seriously at our purchasing decisions, that restaurant will stop being a joke and become a fact of life. Fish really will become a luxury that only the wealthy can afford.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Luxury
Trending

Lyft Gives Free Rides To Those Who Have Had Too Much To Drink

Advertising
Work Today

Editorial Roundtable: What A People-First Workplace Must Prioritize First

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX on why employee fulfillment is a journey and not a destination

Culture Today

Brand Engagement At The Gates Of The World’s Largest Open-Air Gallery

Tiger Beer and a neighborhood-minded nonprofit celebrate and promote New York's creative spirit by beautifying 100 security gates

Trending

Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Work

See All
Automotive Today

Bike-Share Program Helps Students Save Money And Get To Class On Time

Zipcar and Zagster are creating sponsored programs across 500 U.S. college campuses

Technology Today

How Technology Can Save The World By Saving Time

PSFK attends the Social Good Summit 2016 to see how new tech is changing the world for the better

Related Expert

Christophe Mascarin

Innovation in Latin America

Advertising Today

Lancôme’s Newest Campaign Stars A Domestic Abuse Survivor

Rosie Batty is the new face of the Love Your Age series, and is using the platform to bring awareness to a prevalent and deadly problem

Travel Today

Marriott’s Gravity Room Installation Gives Travelers A New Perspective

The luxury hotel chain's #MGravityRoom invites visitors to snap and share pictures of its inverted set up

Fitness / Sport Today

Shoe-Worn Device Helps Kids Perfect Their Soccer Kick

A new wearable helps youth players improve their placement skills and technique

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Why Building Better Offices Is The Key To Employee Engagement

Interaction Designer and Audio-visual Technologist at ESI Design illustrates the value in creating environments filled with surprise and delight

PSFK Labs Today

Modern Workplace Culture: No More Fat Cats Or Kissing Ass

Samar Birwadker, CEO & Co-Founder of Good & Co, on designing shared organizational values to optimize employee happiness and success

Gaming Today

Architecture Firm Turns Their Digital Portfolio Into An 8-Bit Game

Bjarke Ingels Group is exploring the possibilities of user interactivity in web design

Syndicated Yesterday

Banned Books Week Urges People To Seek Out Controversial Works

Joining the annual celebration of the right to read, US author Jessica Herthel called for 'more information, more voices' to protect diversity

Augmented & Virtual Reality Yesterday

Outdoor Camp Presented In 360° VR By X Games Gold Medalist

The video features campers riding BMX trails, zip lining through the woods, and performing big-air jumps

Travel Yesterday

Boeing Wants Passengers To Control Their In-Flight Experience Through Their Phones

The airline manufacturer is embracing automation through a new generation of mobile travel apps

Augmented / Virtual Reality Yesterday

VR Surgery Videos Offer Interactive Medical Education

Dutch startup MDLinking hopes to globalize communication between students and medical care professionals with virtual reality content

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

Culture Yesterday

Use Twitter To Learn A New Language

tDict is an app that uses the social media platform to help you search for words in local dialects

Mobile Yesterday

This Startup Wants To Digitize The Loose Coins In Your Pocket

CoinOut is a new app that lets you save your extra change from cash transactions as electronic funds

No search results found.