Skippers declare war on TV chef

John Clark's Reliance II leaving Whitby harbour
John Clark's Reliance II leaving Whitby harbour

A TV chef has been accused of misleading the public with his new campaign against the impact of fishing upon the health of British seas.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was widely backed when he supported moves to ban discards, but the industry now appears to have turned its back on him following the launch of his new campaign, aired on Channel 4 last Thursday.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has angered skippers with his take on the fishing industry

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has angered skippers with his take on the fishing industry

John Clark, skipper of Fraserburgh trawler Reliance II BF 800, which was built at Parkol, told the Gazette: “Don’t believe anything Hugh has said. He has completely misled the public with his programme. What’s the point in sticking marine protected areas willy-nilly all over the North Sea? And in doing so put thousands of fishermen on the dole. Don’t let Hugh miff the British public by believing his lies, he is just lining his own pockets and boosting his ego.”

Hugh’s Fish Fight sees the TV chef, who has previously targeted battery-farmed chickens, focus upon the fishing industry.

He is backing the creation of 127 marine conservation zones, including one at Runswick Bay, but some of his claims have been angrily refuted by the fishing industry.

More than 800,000 people signed the chef’s petition to end discards, but his latest call to end what he perceives as wanton destruction caused by the scallop dredging on the sea bed has been widely attacked.

An official complaint sent to Channel 4 by skipper Chaz Bruce, who hosts Facebook group The Real Fish Fight, accused the River Cottage chef of misleading the public about one of Britain’s oldest industries.

Whitby skipper Andrew Leadley, of Success WY 212, has spoken out against Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall and said: “For the real facts about the fishing industry check out the Real Fish Fight, not some jumped up cook who is only interested in sensationalism to boost his own bank balance”

Seafish, the British authority on Seafood, have been openly sceptical about some of the claims made during Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall’s programme and is urging caution to campaigners, asking them to fully inform themselves of the facts before “jumping on the latest celebrity led bandwagon”.

Peter Green, skipper of Celestial Dawn, joined in the Whitby Gazette debate and said: “[Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall] is nothing more than a fame-seeking self-proclaimed expert whose knowledge of our industry and how it works add up to about zero.” He added that the Gazette and it’s readership, surrounded by deep maritime history, should get behind the industry and “show him for what he really is, an attention-seeking prat.”

However, dissent against the latest campaign is not unanimous and Graham Ridley posted: “It surely makes more sense than the way things have been run recently. If we raped the earth like we do the seabeds, we’d have nothing left. I’m totally behind the fish fight.”

You can join the debate on the Whitby Gazette’s Facebook page or by commenting below.