Dismay as ASDA bans monkfish Published: 01 February, 2007
ASDA has called on celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver to stop using the species
THERE was angry reaction from the fishing industry today following the announcement that ASDA, the Yorkshire based supermarket group, is to stop selling the restaurant favourite monkfish. ASDA says it is concerned about the way it is being fished and fears that stocks are being depleted.
The announcement has caused dismay at fishing ports around the country because fishermen believe the company is buckling to pressure from environmental groups. They are worried that environmental groups are exerting more pressure on commercial firms than is necessary, often using scant evidence that a species is in danger of over fishing.
The secretary of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association George MacRae described ASDA’s approach as “bad” and said if applied across the board, could have a disastrous effect on the fishing industry. He said the store’s action set a dangerous precedent and effectively, fishermen were on a slippery slope if this kind of policy persisted.
But Asda spokesman Chris Brown said: “Our customers expect us to do everything we can to protect fish stocks, so we’ve decided to ban monkfish sales as a precaution until the industry takes appropriate action to ensure its long-term survival. We are concerned about some of the catching methods used and the impact this has on the ecosystem.”
He added: “Monkfish are slow to reproduce, therefore the species is more at risk than others and more needs to be done to protect it. We would like to see celebrity chefs take monkfish off their menus until the long-term viability of this species is clearer.” The supermarket says it will stop selling the fish until the industry takes “appropriate action” to ensure its long-term survival.
Monkfish – or more accurately monkfish tails – is a big favourite in restaurants and the company has called on celebrity chefs like Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver to stop using the species in their shows until its viability becomes clear. Mr Brown said: “Top chefs can drive the sale of ingredients sky-high overnight simply by using it in their TV programmes or mentioning them in interviews.”
But Mr MacRae contended that the question that the fishing industry never managed to have answered adequately was whose judgement were multiples like ASDA basing their decisions on. He said there was a danger of commercial expediency dictating the marketplace.
“The monkfish stock around the UK is in good heart and there is no doubt that the stock could be fished at a higher level than at present but we are suffering from the huge pressure of the environmental movement which is impacting on our industry’s survival.
“We are in very serious danger of commercial expediency dictating how the industry should be run, in preference to depending on hard facts.”
Mr MacRae urged ASDA to swing away from policies based on unsubstantiated statements.
“People like MSC make demands geared to huge environmental pressures.
“That is accepted for commercal convenience by some supermarkets so that they can concentrate on promoting products claimed to be from sustainable sources.”
A year ago Greenpeace claimed that its survey showed Asda sold more threatened species of fish than rival chains. Greenpeace spokesman Oliver Knowles welcomed the move: “With significant amounts of monkfish coming from the beam trawl fishery, the decision to stop selling this species is a significant step away from this type of destructive fishing.”
The industry fears that other species may be next on the list. But the propaganda is getting through to the public. Two years ago when the North Sea cod debate was at its height fish friers in London and the South East reported that many of their customers had stopped buying cod.
So far Asda is the only major supermarket to ban monkfish. However, other retailers have pledged to stop selling other threatened fish such as marlin, shark and swordfish. And last year seafood producer Young’s banned buying North Sea cod and bottom trawled fish.
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