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Skipper Convinces TV Chef that Cod Stocks on the Rise

29 May 2013

SCOTLAND, UK - The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has welcomed the news that celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recognises that North Sea cod stocks were now increasing towards healthy levels.

A report in the Press & Journal newspaper on Saturday 25 May said: “Celebrity chef High Fearnley Whittingstall – who angered skippers by suggesting UK fish stocks were running dangerously low – admitted yesterday that North Sea cod stocks were now rising to healthy levels.

He spoke out after a fact finding fishing trip on a north-east trawler. The River Cottage star agreed to spend nearly two days with the crew of the Peterhead-registered Budding Rose after skipper Peter Bruce launched an online campaign to counter claims made in the TV series Hugh’s Fish Fight.

Mr Bruce and other fishermen from Peterhead and Fraserburgh set up the Real Fish Fight action group to highlight healthy North Sea stocks and show the sacrifices Scotland’s fishing fleets made in the name of conservation.

Speaking at Peterhead harbour after returning to shore from his stormy voyage, Fearnley-Whittingstall said it was clear that cod stocks were on the increase, but insisted that he had not made a U-turn on his views.

“I don’t think there’s any contradiction between the idea that cod stocks are below where they ought to be, but they are rising,” he said.

“The latest science says that stocks are below safe biological levels, but it also confirms that stocks are rising, and that’s good news and that’s what fishermen are reporting this year.

“The science will always be a little behind what the fishermen are seeing, but the next set of statistics will hopefully confirm that cod is getting close to, if not getting into, safe levels for spawning mass.

“Then we can start to feel confident about the stability of the stock.”

He blamed comments posed on internet forums for sparking a war of words between his supporters and north-east fishermen.

“We don’t control those online conversations,” he said.

“We try to be very careful and deal in hard facts. What happens in the discussion forums is something we don’t have control over and that’s where things get very lively.

“But we don’t want people to think we were ducking the question, or not interested in finding out the truth – we wanted to come up here, go fishing with Peter and talk about these things face-to-face.”

Mr Bruce said there had been some ‘barnstorming’ sessions between the air during the trip, which began at Lerwick on Wednesday morning.

“The guy was willing to come out with us and see what we’re doing,” he said. “I think he learned a lot, but time will tell if it’s going to do any good.

“For him to recognise that cod stocks are rising is really something, though.”

The trip was filmed for the next series of Hugh’s Fish Fight, due to be screened in the autumn.

TheFishSite News Desk

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