The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) : 2019-11-18

NEWS : 67 : 3

NEWS

3 news THE PRESS AND JOURNAL November 2019 hoping to catch a break affecting valuable exports to key European markets, maybe we should look closer to home when looking for untapped potential for growing sales of this country’s wonderful seafood. Despite these islands being surrounded by waters rich in natural, protein-rich seafood, a great many UK consumers seem to have very little appetite for it other than haddock and cod. How else do you explain Britain’s biggest grocer, Tesco, deciding earlier this year to remove fresh fish counters from many of its supermarke­ts? That really is a sad indictment of consumer tastes in the UK, despite the growth of restaurant chains with more exotic menus – particular­ly those specialisi­ng in Japanese food – and a proliferat­ion of excellent but usually prohibitiv­ely expensive eateries promoting local catch. It is also despite the best efforts of organisati­ons like Seafood Scotland and the Scottish Government, through its Changing Tides action plan for the seafood sector, to “educate” youngsters’ palates. Generation­s of Scots have grown up thinking seafood comes either deep-fried or from a box in the freezer. I am proud to say my own children have from an early age developed a taste for all kinds of wonderful seafood, including squid (especially the tentacles), shell-on prawns, mussels and even octopus – that I would have been far too squeamish to try at their age. How many people around the UK can strip a prawn of its shell or access a crab that hasn’t been “dressed” in advance without bits of it flying all over the dinner table? Not many. In Thailand, I’ve watched in awe as young children take to these tasks as if they were born with the knowledge. Most of the adults seem to know how to cook too. One of the most impressive children’s menu items I’ve ever seen in a restaurant was in Clearwater Beach, Florida, where huge snow crabs featured among the options. A majority of Scotland’s best shellfish is shipped abroad, ending up on restaurant menus and dinner tables in France and Spain, or thrown back in the sea as unwanted catch. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get many more UK consumers eating it and helping our seafood industry to cash in on a largely undevelope­d market on its doorstep? That would deliver a major boost to Scotland’s “blue” economy, while the healthier diets would ease some of the pressure on the NHS too. Theresa May faced a furious backlash from fishers after sanctionin­g a ‘massive sell-out’ of the industry in its interim Brexit deal