Yesterday the Food Standards Agency (FSA) finally announced that it's going to review its misguided policy advising us all to eat at least two portions of fish every week. The independent watchdog, which is charged with protecting the public interest on food safety and health issues, has been pushing the 'two a week' figure in recent years - conveniently overlooking the fact that our over-exploited fisheries can't possibly sustain the increases in fishing needed to meet this level of consumption.
Currently the average British adult eats around one and a half portions each week, a third of which is oily fish like the mackerel pictured above. If we were to meet the FSA's suggested intake levels, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution estimates that fish consumption in the UK would have to rise by over 40 per cent (with oily fish consumption rising by a whopping 200 per cent).
Given that more than 70 per cent of the world's fish stocks are described by scientists as being 'fully exploited', 'over-exploited' or 'significantly depleted, that level of increase would clearly have a disastrous impact on them. So this is potentially good news, although long overdue. And it hasn't happened yet - as of today the FSA's website is still exhorting us all to eat more fish - they've just added a small paragraph recognising the importance of sustainability.
Still, it's likely to be a step in the right direction. Anything which recognises the perilous state of over-exploited fisheries should be welcomed. The trouble is that to give fish stocks a real chance of long term recovery we need, in many cases, to be cutting the amount we fish, not increasing it. And we also need to create a network of marine reserves - large areas of the ocean where fishing and other extractive industries are permanently off-limits.