TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall told: 'Leave fishing industry to the fishermen'
THE fishing fleet has launched a scathing attack on TV celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Brixham trawlermen, crabbers and scallopers insist he should concentrate on his cooking — and leave the fishing industry to the fishermen.
They have hit back at the Channel 4 'Fish Fight' presenter and his view of the fishing industry.
Many in the port, the largest in England for the value of fish landed, have been annoyed at Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall's comments and self-appointed mission for a more sustainable fishing industry, which includes demands for the introduction of 127 marine conservation zones around the coast.
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Many have started to fight back on social networks such as Twitter or Facebook.
Barry Young, one of the auctioneers with Brixham Trawler Agents, claimed: "Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is only telling one side of the story. He's not letting the public know everything that the South West fishing industry has done.
"We have greatly improved our gear. There are also many areas closed to fishing in British waters. All this he has not mentioned.
"Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would no doubt have an opinion if we told him how to cook his fish. He should leave the fishing industry to fishermen and concentrate on his cooking."
The Fish Fight programme prompted the furious backlash from the industry which feels it risks 'alienating' fishermen who are vital to conservation efforts.
The TV programme has shown some fishermen as destroyers of the seas and seabeds.
The Axminster-based chef was in Westminster earlier this week to lobby for 127 marine conservation zones to be introduced around the coast to protect marine life.
The Fish Fight campaign, which also wants to see an end to fish discards, has gained the backing of hundreds of thousands of people via an internet petition and agreed by European ministers for certain fish.
Robert Simonetti, vice chairman of the Brixham Fish Merchants' Association, said: "Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall has only shown one side of the story. Fishermen need to get their side across.
"They have done a lot to change the way they fish. They have already turned fishing into a sustainable business. The proof is in the fact there are more fish around."
Kate Dobson, from Brixham-based Devon Scallops, criticised the TV chef on her Facebook page. She said: "I'm so sick of this industry being slated. As a small inshore vessel, we don't have loads of areas to fish due to conservation areas that are already in place.
"But the Fish Fight programme did not make these known to the public.
"They have been managed properly for years. There is less catch on the market as there are fewer boats at sea not because of fewer stocks but because the price of any catch has not risen, yet the price of boats and all the expenses has. The majority of fishermen do care.
"All the industry wants is a fair say and to be included and this is not happening because of this programme."
Capt Jim Portus, chief executive of the South Western Fish Producers Organisation, said: "Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall was informed of the positive aspects of the fishing industry, but he chose to show off only the negatives. The industry has come a long way over the past years in terms of gear improvement and reducing discards and overfishing. He seems to think he has single-handedly invented a way of doing away with discards. The fishing industry has been working on practical ways to eliminate discards for many years."
In December, the Government angered environmentalists by announcing that just 31 of 127 proposed marines conservation zones would be given increased protection. The first wave in the South West includes Tor Bay.
Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall responded to some of the criticisms in his blog on the Fish Fight website.
He said: "Behind the scenes we have spoken at length to fishermen from all different sectors of the industry and we have tried to include their views accurately and fairly in the programmes. I understand not all fishermen are the same and not all fishing methods damage the marine environment. I think we have been very clear. "Some people are saying our facts and figures are wrong. But the sad truth is that two thirds of the world's fish stocks are over-fished and that in the UK we do only have 0.001 per cent of seas which are entirely closed to fishing.
"I know there are lots of other types of closed areas including real time closures and areas closed to only some forms of fishing, but I believe that it is important that small areas of our seas are closed to all forms of fishing so that we have 'reference areas' against which the condition of other parts of the seas can be judged. Most of the new MCZs will only exclude the fishing methods that could damage vulnerable habitats or species."