In the public eye

Posted on 20/01/15 by Emily Beament

Environment Correspondent at the Press Association, Emily Beament, discusses the increasing public awareness of the industry.

For many people, the sea is nothing more than cold and grey. But in recent years there has been a growing public awareness of what is happening in the waters around the UK.

Conservationists have raised awareness of UK marine environments with calls for a network of marine protected areas, while possibly the most high-profile campaign has been chef and TV presenter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's "Fish Fight" on discards.

Celebrity chefs have also played a role in trying to broaden people's fish choices, flagging up alternatives such as gurnard to the "big five" - although the Marine Stewardship Council has warned that a lack of knowledge over stocks of some species mean they cannot necessarily be considered more sustainable.

As an environment correspondent, much of what I write about the fishing industry relates to sustainability, for example stories on fisheries which secure MSC certification or the Marine Conservation Society's latest assessment of "fish to eat" or "fish to avoid".

But journalists are also keen to tell the human story behind a wider issue, and individual case studies can help illustrate complex issues facing the fishing industry and the marine environment from a different perspective.

It's important too, to get all sides of a story, for example finding out from fishermen how policies such as the EU discard ban will - or won't - work in practice.

Stories about produce gaining EU protected food name status, whether it's Melton Mowbray pies or Cornish sardines, also tend to get a good showing in both regional and national press.

That ties in, I think, to a growing interest among many people in the UK about the origins of what they eat, in the face of increasingly global and complex food supply chains.

The scandal surrounding the revelations that horsemeat had been found in products such as burgers and lasagne last year threw into sharp focus the importance for food producers in this country of being able to demonstrate how and where their produce comes from.

After all, as one Cornish fisherman said to me recently, there's no horsemeat in hake. It's hake.

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