Fans of the nation’s favourite dish have nothing to fear, despite research released this week which claims traditional fish and chips are set to become a thing of the past.
That is the view of industry experts, who have played down findings by scientists which predict that the numbers of haddock in North Sea fishing grounds will go into decline due to global warming.
Studies suggest that as the temperature of the North Sea continues to rise, certain types of fish will be forced further north in search of colder waters and be replaced by species such as red mullet and John Dory.
As a result, fish suppers as we know them, meals synonymous with Whitby and staples of the British diet for generations, are under threat, researchers at Exeter University claim.
Yet, Arnold Locker, managing director of Whitby’s Locker’s Trawlers and the former chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, has questioned the validity of the findings.
“This is a desktop study, it’s not an environmental or habitat study,” he said.
“I’m not saying that these scientists are definitely wrong but it’s difficult to predict how sea temperatures will change just by using a computer.
“Only time will tell but I don’t think we’re going to see haddock disappearing.”
Typical sea-surface temperatures in the North Sea have risen by 1.3C over the past 30 years, and a further increase of 1.8C has been predicted over the next 50 years by the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Commenting on the findings of his research, Steve Simpson, a marine biologist, told The Independent: “Popular cold-water species that we currently fish for have already moved both northwards and deeper over the last 35 years.
“We’ll see a changing of the guard in the next few decades and our models predict cold water species will be squeezed out, with warmer water fish likely to take their place.
“For sustainable UK fisheries, we need to move from haddock and chips and look to southern Europe for our gastronomic inspiration.”
In contrast to Dr Simpson’s comments, Mr Locker said that there is currently a boom in haddock fishing.
“Haddock has already headed north into Scottish waters and fishermen up there are incredibly busy right now,” he added.
“In my 45 years as a fisherman I’ve never seen opportunities in the North Sea like there are now.
“There has also been an explosion of haddock in the Celtic Sea and English Channel in the last three or four years.”
Paul Gildroy, head chef at Whitby’s Magpie Cafe, is confident that traditional fish and chips will not be disappearing from menus.
“Even if haddock stocks decline as predicted, I don’t think we’ll see any noticable change for a long time,” he said.
“Fish and chips is such a popular meal in the UK, it’s not going anywhere.”