The Market Demands Plate Sized Bass – Really?
[NB – we thank Leon Roskilly of the Sea Anglers’ Conservation Network for allowing us to publish this article]
There was a time when people living in Great Britain almost only ever drank water that had come out of a tap.
When it was suggested that people might actually pay a good price for bottled water, when just about the purist water in the world was readily available at the turn of a tap, the response was utter disbelief.
Bottled water might be fine in countries where it was best to boil any water before drinking, but the purest water possible flowed from UK taps. The idea of actually going to a supermarket, buying bottles of water and carrying them home just seemed too ridiculous for words.
But as we all now know, that happened.
One word – marketing!
The idea that drinking water from a bottle was somehow sophisticated, continental, only common people drank water that came from taps, was subtly implanted.
Somehow that fresh bottled NATURAL spring water was superior and healthy (whereas it has been demonstrated time and again that tap water usually has far less bacteria, and sometimes other contaminents, is the reality).
The power of the marketing message requires no greater demonstration than the millions of pounds now spent entirely unnecessarily by the British public each week on bottled water.
So, when the catching sector howled in protest at plans to increase the average size of bass that can be caught from UK waters, that ‘the market demands plate-sized bass’, I couldn’t help being sceptical.
In my experience, the greater majority of diners on fish of my acquaintance are horrified at being confronted by the dead body of a fish on their plate.
Complete with head and eyes distorted horrifically by the cooking process into something that could have been dreamed up by the producer of a ’50s B horror movie.
And then there’s the messy business of needing to pick at the tiny corpse to carefully remove flesh from bones, with the ever present risk of transferring a hidden bone from corpse to mouth to the lining of the throat, turning a potentially pleasant dining experience into one of memorable pain, or worse.
No, most people would prefer a fillet neatly taken from a larger fish, laid attractively on the plate, perhaps with a good sauce, that can be neatly transferred from plate to mouth with little fuss and with much more confidence.
I can only surmise that this claimed market preference for plate-sized bass is an invention of ‘chefs’, OK let’s say it as it is, ‘trendy chefs’!
In other words a market manipulation that implies that sophisticated diners alone can appreciate the full ambience of a dish, when it is served as a complete corpse, complete with eyes and other inedible bodily parts.
Now, in the normal course of events, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
By all means dress a sausage in a grass skirt and give it a posh name so that sophisticated diners are prepared to pay more.
But when it comes to bass, there are some serious ethical considerations that diners need to address.
Is it right that a dinner party of two, or maybe four, should each have a fish killed for their delectation?
A baby fish denied the opportunity to ever have contributed to the reproduction of it’s species before being taken from the sea?
(Remember bass are a slow-growing long-lived species, that would normally live some 25 years, spawning up to 15 times and growing to possibly 20lbs in weight).
When if that fish had been allowed to grow to a larger size, it would have fed more than one person for the same amount of fishing mortality (and would have contributed a spawning or two to the continuance of its species).
And as fishermen are paid per kilo of fish, when catching larger fish, fishermen would be paid the same for killing fewer fish. (In fact larger bass are worth more per kilo than smaller bass).
It hardly makes sense does it?
But that is what the market demands, we are told.
I’d say it was more likely that is what the market manipulators have told the market to demand.
And that rather than accepting that, it is time that it was pointed out to them that eating baby fish that have not yet spawned, killing more fish than is necessary, is increasingly unacceptable to a public that is beginning to wake up to the fact that our marine life is in trouble because of the way that fish is marketed and consumed.
A switch from marketing the idea that it’s somehow sophisticated to be eating baby bass, plundering the stock of it’s growth potential, to the idea that a bass fillet from a larger fish is not only a more pleasurable eating experience, but one that also will substantially increase the prospects of a sustainable and robust supply of bass for the diners of tomorrow as well as today, should be an easy step to take.
And it’s the right thing to do.
It’s good to see that wild line-caught bass fillets are increasingly taking the place of wild dead baby bass on the supermarket counters, as the public begins to become more aware of the damage being done to marine fish stocks and the marine environment, by the scramble for their cash.