Celebrity chef Tom Aikens helped kick off a campaign to promote local fishermen and fishmongers, calling on shoppers to ask for the local catch of the day.

He joined Henriette Reinders from South East Seafood and fishermen for an event held at the Billingsgate Fish Market in London, which also launches a South East competition seeking the best Sea Bass recipe from the public – best recipes should be sent to fish@naturalpr.biz

“We have wonderful, fresh fish caught from local waters, but so much of it is shipped elsewhere and people are beginning to really appreciate buying local. We have created a list of accredited fishmongers who sell local and are promoting it on our website and we want to support fishermen in the region, so that the local market grows,” said Henriette Reinders.

“We have also started a fish tagging scheme, focused on three very important and sustainable fish from our local coastal waters, Sea Bass, Dover Sole and Lobster, so that people know exactly which fishing boat caught each fish and that it was caught with as little impact as possible – and we want to encourage local fishmongers to sell sustainable, locally-caught fish as much as possible.”

Tom Aikens, who recently appeared on TV programmes Iron Chef and Junior Apprentice, has come out in support of the campaign and will this week be making an appearance at the Billingsgate Fish School, which is offering the competition prize of a fantastic fish preparation and cooking course for two.

For many years, the number of fishing vessels and employment in the UK fishing industry has been in decline. Reduced quotas and rising fuel prices continue to challenge the future of the industry and there is a growing demand from customers for seafood from sustainable sources.

The South East boasts 26 landing points and the majority of these ports land their catch from day boats or ‘under 10 metre’ boats. Day boats fish mainly within a 12 mile limit along our coast. This means that if the weather is bad, it is very difficult for them to go out and supply fresh seafood to the market and shops.

Continued Henriette Reinders: “We all eat fish and know that freshness comes first, but it is important to catch and consume sustainable seafood. Fishermen across the region are becoming more and more aware of sustainability: the introduction by Selsey fishermen of escape hatches on lobster pots enabling undersized lobsters to escape and areas on the seabed that are being avoided during the breeding/spawning season are examples of the latest projects to protect stocks.”

In 2007 Seafish introduced the Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS), offering a way for consumers to enjoy their favourite seafood dish comfortable in the knowledge that it is both the produce of the highest quality and that the fishing vessel which landed the catch operates according to strict guidelines, minimising its impact on the environment. The aim is that over time this scheme will become a condition of supply.

Said Henriette Reinders: “In the South East we are working with the fishing sector to get as many boats signed up to RFS as possible and this campaign is all about informing the public about the challenges our fishermen face daily to bring in a sustainable catch – and sure, you can’t expect the same thing to be available every day, but the fresh taste is absolutely worth it and we need to be flexible about the recipes we are willing to try daily.”

Postcards encouraging people to ask for their local catch of the day and including competition details to win the Billingsgate Fish School prize are available in fishmongers across the region or call Natural PR on Tel: 01273 857242 or email: fish@naturalpr.biz