Buy Your Mackerel From a Sustainable Source

It is one of the oily fishes, high in those important omega 3 fats. Universally agreed to be good for us and traditionally a bit of a hard sell. Top chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, helped to make it a more trendy food with his mac bap campaign two and half years ago when mackerel was certified as sustainable.

This week mackerel has been removed from the Marine Conservation Society’s “fish to eat” list. The MCS now recommends that we should only eat it occasionally. Thus mackerel joins monkfish and plaice. We are advised to move to herrings or sardines.

Mackerel Swimmingwbaiv / CC BY-SA 2.0

To those who grew up spending their holidays by the coast and remember catching boxes full of mackerel in a matter of hours, this news is not such a surprise. There used to be such excitement when the “mackerel were in”. But slowly over the years those numbers dropped and recently, in some places, you might be lucky to get 10 fish in a season. Of course, inshore anecdotes from amateur fishermen have little to do with stocks and quotas in the greater scheme of things but there is something about the catching and eating of mackerel that can be taken advantage of here.

We are being advised that if we wish to eat mackerel now we should buy it from inshore boats using hand lines to catch it. Mr Whittingstall agrees and will continue to serve hand line caught mackerel at the River Cottage cookery school, thus continuing to promote a healthy, tasty food and support local fishermen.

So, this is the thing to take advantage of. Anyone who has fished for mackerel knows that you have to eat it the day you catch it, within hours if possible. Once you know that taste, you know that even the most carefully preserved fish will come nowhere close. It is the ultimate seasonal food. Eat it when it is ‘in’. Straight from the line on to the pan. This is what all the great chefs want and this is what a real and responsible fishing industry needs.

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