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Sustainable Fish Recipes and The Big Fish Fight to Save Our Seas

Gordon has been cooking and experimenting with food since childhood. He loves coming up with new and tasty culinary creations.


What is Meant By Sustainable Fish and Seafood?

Sustainable fish and seafood essentially refers to species which either remain plentiful in our seas and oceans, or are ethically farmed in an environmentally friendly fashion to protect them from becoming endangered. Mackerel (pictured) is but one of the many examples of the fish species currently classed as being sustainable but the classification covers both saltwater and freshwater types of fish. This page will look at why we should eat only sustainable fish wherever possible and provide some delicious recipes for cooking them in your home kitchen.

Loch Fyne, Argyll, Scotland

Loch Fyne, Argyll, Scotland

Why Should We Care About Sustainable Fish and Seafood?

Personal experiences and shocking discoveries

There are undoubtedly some who think the publicity afforded to declining fish stocks amounts to little more than the paranoid rantings of extreme environmentalists, with a warped vision of reality. They will glance at a related story on their TV or in their newspaper before quickly dismissing it and happily tucking in to their cod and chips. It is imperative, however, to realise that this is by no means the case. There are many species of fish in our seas and oceans - around the world - which were once plentiful beyond counting but which have now been decimated to a fraction of their one time stock levels by over-fishing and by inappropriate fishing practices. I have personally seen the evidence of this in a number of locales - only on a small scale - but it was enough to break my heart on each occasion.

I was introduced to sea fishing/sea angling as a very young child in the 1970s, both from shore and from boat. How well I remember the delights of fishing from a pier or a small boat in the sea lochs and sounds of the West of Scotland (such as Loch Fyne, pictured.) It seemed that every time a line was dropped in to the water, it would come back up with a plump and edible fish on the hook. It took no time at all to catch enough fish for a delicious poached, fried or baked dinner. As I grew older, in to the 1980s and particularly the 90's, I ventured further afield, enjoying my fishing as much as ever and the later culinary delights which my catch provided.

It is difficult to pinpoint precisely when but sometime around the late 90's, I began to notice a very definite slump in the numbers and types of fish that not only I was catching but also that my friends and others fishing particular venues were catching. Often, blank fishing trips would occur, or the irritating dogfish would be all that was caught. No, this is not, "Fisherman's tales," or rueful reference to, "The one that got away!" This represented a definite reduction in the numbers of fish in these once bountiful waters.

This was illustrated never more clearly than when I revisited that idyllic scene of my earliest childhood sea fishing experiences - a small village near Oban - for the first time in more than twenty years, around 2003 or 2004. It was a beautiful May Bank Holiday weekend and a group of us had travelled north for a weekend of camping, fishing by day and sampling the liquid delights of the local hotel bar by night. I saw immediately that the village had changed (as had to be expected in a twenty year plus interval) but nothing prepared me for the shock of what I found when we asked the locals for fishing mark information. Most of them thought we were joking! "There's no fish here, lads," I remember one old man telling us. "They're long gone."

A large part of the problem in Scotland's once fish rich sea lochs is the fishing method known as, "Dredging." Imagine a mechanical digger clearing the ground where a new road is to be built, scraping away earth, rocks and all in its path. This is essentially what was done to the sea beds, scooping up not only all the fish in their path but leaving a once rich marine environment an underwater desert.

Inappropriate fishing methods such as dredging, nets which scoop up undersized fish and fishing quotas which actually mean many fish caught in nets have to be returned to the sea dead are combining to put fish on the table for future generations in very serious jeopardy.

We have to act...and we have to act now.

PS - At the time of creating this page (February 2011,) I hadn't been sea fishing in more than five years. I had reached the stage where I was simply torturing myself on each occasion with memories of what used to be... That changed in late April, 2011, when I made my first sea fishing trip in several years and I have made many more to a number of different locations in the interim, fishing both from boat and from shore. Sadly, my experiences have more than borne out my expectations.

North Sea Fishing and Discard - The horrific truth...

Discard is the process whereby fishermen are forced by Draconian EU laws to put back untold numbers of fish - dead! - to the seas each year. Prepare to be shocked by the images and facts contained in this very short video. Click on the arrow in the centre of the screen...

Breaded Whiting Fillet with Real Chips and Garden Peas

Breaded Whiting Fillet with Real Chips and Garden Peas

Breaded Whiting Fillet with Real Chips and Garden Peas


Fish and chips has long since been the most popular, "Fast food," in the UK. "The good companions," no lesser a luminary than Sir Winston Churchill once called fish and chips. It has withstood challenges from all comers - from the US fast food giants, to the varied Asian takeaways which can now be found throughout the UK - to remain the nation's favourite. The problem in modern times with fish and chips is that it is traditionally prepared from cod, or even haddock - two of the most endangered species of all in British waters and fishing grounds. This recipe therefore incorporates probably the closest alternative to cod or haddock - whiting.

Cook Time

Prep Time: Two hours

Total Time: Two and a half hours

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Serves: Two


  • 2 large whiting fillets
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 4 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs (approx 3 average slices of bread)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp frozen peas
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 slices of fresh lemon and two sprigs of basil for garnish


  1. It is perhaps best to begin by explaining the unusually long preparation time quoted for this recipe. That is simply down to the way in which I prepare chips. It is a method first suggested by the experimental celebrity chef, Heston Blumenthal. Although it is not of course necessary to use this method and quicker, more traditional chip preparation methods can be used, I honestly believe that where time permits, employing this method is more than worthwhile in terms of the final results.
  2. The potatoes should be peeled, sliced and chopped in to chips. They should then be added to a pot of cold water and put on to a high heat. When the water boils, the heat should be turned down and the chips simmered for five minutes only. They should be drained and added to a pot of cold water for a couple of minutes to cool them down. They should be placed in a large Tupperware container with a lid and in to the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
  3. The chips should be spread on a clean tea towel and carefully but thoroughly dried, before they are fried for the first time. They should be fried in sunflower oil for six or seven minutes and drained on kitchen paper. When they are cool, they go back in to the refrigerator for a further half hour.
  4. The eggs should be broken in to a flat bottomed bowl, seasoned and beaten. The fresh breadcrumbs should be spread on a large dinner plate. A couple of tablespoons of sunflower oil should be placed in a large, non-stick frying pan to come up to a medium heat.
  5. The secret of a crispy, even crust on the cooked fish is putting it through the egg and breadcrumbs twice. Draw each fillet through the beaten egg and pat it on both sides in the breadcrumbs. Repeat. Add the fish fillets to the pan and fry for three to four minutes each side until beautifully golden and crisp.
  6. The chips should be put in to the fryer for their second and final fry when the fish is in the frying pan. When the fish has been turned, the frozen peas should be placed in a large pan of boiling water to simmer for three minutes.
  7. The chips should be removed from the fryer and drained on kitchen paper. The peas should be drained through a colander. The fish should be carefully transferred to a plate with a fish slice/turner and the lemon and basil carefully arranged on top. The chips and peas can then be arranged alongside.

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Fried Mackerel Fillet in Oatmeal

Fried Mackerel Fillet in Oatmeal with Minted New Potatoes

Fried Mackerel Fillet in Oatmeal with Minted New Potatoes

Fresh mackerel fillet

Fresh mackerel fillet

It is herring that is far more often associated with being fried in oatmeal, rather than mackerel. The similarities between herring and mackerel are many, however, and mackerel works equally well prepared in this way. It may not be the most obvious of seasonings but the sprinkling of malt vinegar over the mackerel immediately before it is eaten gives this dish a very special, extra taste.

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

5 min

35 min

40 min



  • 2 large mackerel fillets
  • Desired number of baby new potatoes
  • 4 tbsp medium grain oatmeal
  • 1 tsp freshly chopped mint
  • 1/2 oz butter
  • 8 - 10 large lettuce leaves
  • 1 small white onion
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Malt vinegar