The worldwide fishing industry is in crisis. Fish stocks are in steep decline, and are not being replenished anywhere near as quickly as we are plundering them.
Rather than respond to the crisis by drastically reducing the overall amount it catches, the industry has instead responded by employing more and more extreme techniques to maximise its haul of the dwindling fish stocks that remain.
What is more, it has been encouraged to do so through massive taxpayer-funded subsidies.
The most destructive of these industrial-scale techniques uses a process called bottom trawling. This involves dragging very heavily weighted nets along the sea floor at slow speed. The weights ensure that these vast nets scoop up all of the fish in their path. But at the same time the nets also cause devastation to the oceanic ecosystem, indiscriminately destroying coral, sponges and shellfish, obliterating feeding grounds and sea floor habitats. Many other species are incidentally caught and killed in these nets, including dolphins, porpoises, whales, seals, sharks, sea lions, sea birds and turtles. Up to two-thirds of the haul from bottom trawling is unwanted – thrown back into the sea, usually dead or dying.
Without EU and government subsidies, bottom trawling would become unsustainable as it relies upon vast quantities of fuel to haul and operate the heavy nets. Those subsidies were originally intended to help preserve jobs in the industry, but a lack of regulation and ineffective conservation means the industry is, in effect, being subsidised to destroy its own future.
There are now areas of the Mediterranean and the North Sea which are devoid of marine life, where the ocean floor resembles a barren desert. Off the coast of the United States, bottom trawling is causing a similar picture of devastation in the Pacific, Atlantic and the Gulf.
Bottom trawling should be banned worldwide. Fishing quota compliance needs to be rigorously monitored and enforced. In severely depleted regions of the oceans protected reserves need to be established, where all fishing should be banned. And, of course, we all need to eat less fish.
On to the recipe.
When I was planning this post, I was originally intending to come up with a veggie take on the British classic fish and chips – hence the rant about the fishing industry – but the fact is that my idea needs a bit more work. I’ll post it once I’m happy with it, but in the meantime here’s a lovely, quick flavourful and easy recipe for a seasonal pesto sauce.
If ever there was a league table created of the world’s great sauces then pesto would surely be right up there, either in or close to first place. It’s a perfect example of culinary synergy – a few fairly simple ingredients coming together and creating something magnificently greater than the sum of the parts. The classic recipe uses basil and pine nuts, but there’s no reason at all not to experiment with other flavour and textures combinations, and for me this delightful combination of wintry ingredients is an absolute winner.
spinach, walnut and rosemary pesto
40 g organic spinach leaves
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
20 g walnuts
25 g vegetarian Parmesan
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
75 ml extra virgin olive oil
1. Chop the spinach leaves roughly and place in a pestle and mortar or a food processor with the rosemary leaves, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic and olive oil. Grind or process until you have a vibrant green, reasonably smooth paste.
2. To serve, simply stir the pesto into freshly cooked pasta, with a little extra Parmesan grated over the top. Simple but delightful!.
3. This sauce will keep for several days in the fridge if you cover it with a thin film of olive oil