Roy Brett: Playing politics with our food and produce is a dangerous game

ThIS week saw another body blow being dealt to the Scottish fishing industry when the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) advised us to cut back on eating mackerel.

The revised recommendation on its “fish to eat” list is supposedly because of overfishing.

I’m on the side of Scottish fishermen in recommending that we carry on eating Scottish mackerel. This is important for Scottish fishing jobs. It’s good for our health as it’s rich in Omega 3. And, in these recessionary times, it’s affordable too.

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The MCS is being premature and counter-productive in its approach.

The problem has arisen because mackerel has increasingly been hunting its diet of prawn and squid in Icelandic and Faroese waters. Both countries have vastly increased their quotas which is having an adverse impact on our own fishing fleet.

The EU and national governments urgently need to negotiate a deal on mackerel quotas with Norway, Iceland and the Faroes and flex some muscle and impose sanctions on countries that exceed quotas.

Richard Lochhead, Scottish fisheries minister, also has an important role in standing up for the interests of Scotland’s most valuable catch, worth £164 million in 2011. I’m sure he recognises that he needs to make his voice clearly heard above the squabbling to stand up for the Scottish fishing community and Scottish consumers. And not only fishermen are affected. The processing sector also suffers, particularly in fisheries-dependent areas such as Shetland.

Current scientific research is optimistic about recovery of mackerel stocks. Scottish fishermen who see what’s happening to stocks know that this latest decision doesn’t make sense. Maybe the men in suits would make more common sense decisions if they put on their overalls and joined the fishermen out at sea.

It’s difficult to keep track of what food is good for the environment and good for our health.

Last week saw allegations that the RSPCA’s Freedom Foods label on farmed salmon does not guarantee animal welfare and environmental standards. This week the MCS urged us to eat less mackerel. This is playing dangerous politics with livelihoods.

• Roy Brett is head chef at Ondine restaurant.