Anthony Mangnall: Let’s get nation eating British seafood

Some of the fishing trawlers of the Brixham fleet in harbour

Some of the fishing trawlers of the Brixham fleet in harbour - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We are all rightly paying more attention to our food. Where it comes from, how it’s made and what standards of welfare are used.

All of which is essential as we prepare for a life outside of the Common Fisheries Policies (CFP) and the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and as we seek to strike new trade deals with nations across the globe.

It is hoped that Parliament will pass the Fisheries Bill in the coming weeks, which simultaneously supports our fishermen and protects our coastal habitats.

This carefully balanced piece of legislation will see our fishing communities bolstered and natural habitats protected ensuring healthy stocks of fish for generations to come.

Added to which, we will be able to end the farcical sight of European super trawlers decimating our seabed when we leave the EU and renegotiate access to our sovereign waters. All of which has been near impossible while members of the CFP.

This year has been tough on our fishermen. Global lockdowns, restricted demand, limited exports have threatened livelihoods.

But true to form our determined and resilient fishing communities responded in typical Devonian style. Creating local delivery routes, mini-processing bases and ‘buy local’ campaigns. In short order, their work has improved demand, protected jobs and introduced residents and visitors alike to an incredible variety of British seafood.

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Although it is a sad reality that most of the fish, we eat in the UK is imported and the majority of fish we catch is exported, this does not have to be the case.

A clever advertising and education campaign could introduce the whole country the delicious delights of monkfish, cuttlefish, Dover sole, bass and turbot, the list goes on...

Such a campaign could dramatically increase the GDP value of this extraordinary sector, benefiting our coastal communities, and encouraging a new generation of people to join the lucrative and skilled ranks of our fishermen.

Along with my proposals for a new fishing school at Noss on Dart, we can find the manpower and help this industry develop. The private sector can also play its part and should be encouraged to source locally where possible.

On the turf side, the Agriculture Bill is still progressing through the House of Lords. This bill, which is the first of its kind since the Second World War, shifts the agricultural focus to ensure it considers environmentalism and public money for public good, as well as food security as well as protecting our high welfare standards.

That last point is particularly important.

Much has been made over the last few months about the possibility of chlorinated chicken or hormone-injected beef reaching our supermarkets. This is a fallacy. It is wrong. For such a scenario to occur there would have to be a change to the UK’s sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS) and to do so would require a vote in Parliament, which any government of any colour would lose.

In fact, the Agriculture Bill has been strengthened in a multitude of manners that protects our farmers and scrutinises our trade deals.

From the Trade and Ag commission which is now on a permanent statutory footing, having to produce reports before parliament that document the impact of animal welfare and agriculture of each free trade deal, to the international trade committee which will review those trade deals struck by the Government. These steps are should be welcomed as not only do they protect our high welfare standards they will help promote them abroad.

It is said that laws and sausages are the two things you never wish to see made, however in this case I am pleased that the Government has listened and that our farmers and their high standard will be protected long into the future.