Friday, 8 January 2021

Hake is the new cod! Let's hope the Daily Mail is right.

With many Cornish fishermen undoubtedly disappointed at the result of the Brexit deal which has left some wondering if they are now worse off than when we were members of the EU abiding by the strictures of the Common Fisheries Policy there may be some good news on the way.  The Daily Mail has carried a story citing hake as an alternative to cod for the traditional fish and chip shop supper!

Despite and in-spite of the huge changes made to sustainable fishing practices in the North Sea, cod became the poster fish for the FishFight campaign started by chef High Fearnely-Whittingstall which eventually led to the well intentioned but disastrous 'nil discard' regulations. The campaign, while it garnered huge public support, made little sense in practical terms. The majority of vessels targeting white fish in the North Sea had already made huge changes to their working practices with gear and other modifications helping to significantly reduce discards. The biggest issue - and still is - is that fish are unaware of the 'nil-discards' regulations and are therefore still caught by trawl and net. Unlike farmers, fishermen using trawl and nets by-and-large don't have the luxury of being able to predict what they harvest - the seabed is not delineated in the way that fields of crops are nor have fish read the latest MMO landing regulations. In the North Sea hake are one of the top 'choke' species that through the law of unintended consequences that has seen the move to ensure 'nil-discards' deemed unworkable in many areas.

Fast forward the last ten years and it seems that the Cornish netter fleet are now ideally placed to help supply the nations with an equally healthy and sustainable alternative to cod for that fish supper.

Cornish hake were certified by the MSC in 2015 with 15 vessels licensed to catch this superb eating fish much loved by top UK chefs like Nathan Outlaw, Paul Aisnworth, Rick Stein, Galton Blackstone, Tom Brown and many others who often use hake in their dishes on TV cooking shows.

Today, young Ryan Davey, skipper of the netter Stelissa (please note Daily Mail - hake are caught by gill nets not trawlers - there's a huge difference Ed) is one of the fleet currently at sea fishing for hake.