Boris Johnson believes a campaign to encourage people to eat British-caught fish could help the industry combat post-Brexit disruption.
The prime minister backed calls for a campaign in a video conference with Conservative MPs from coastal areas.
He also promised to address concerns about quotas and the ban on shellfish exports to the EU.
Labour said it also wanted people to eat more British fish, but that would not save the industry.
Mr. Johnson’s official spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, said the prime minister’s favorite fish was Scottish salmon.
Fishing industry leaders have accused the PM of being “in denial” about the scale of the problems facing it.
Buying British Fish
Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said fishing communities were “very disappointed” with the post-Brexit trade deal signed by Mr. Johnson.
This gave “free access” to EU fleets to fish in UK waters, he added, but without “securing revised quota shares that would reflect the UK’s new status as an independent coastal state.”
He did, however, welcome the idea of a buy-British campaign.
His organization was getting many emails from public members asking where they could buy British fish; he told BBC News.
The problem, he added, was that the UK has a taste for foreign species and tended to export most fish caught in its own waters.
The UK is a net importer of cod and tuna, for example, while hake, which is plentiful in UK waters, is exported to countries like Spain.
ACCORDING TO OFFICIAL FIGURES, the UK fleet catches more mackerel than any other species, although 60% of that is landed abroad.
There was “enormous scope” for a campaign to change the public’s addiction to “bland” white fish from abroad, said Mr. Deas, perhaps “getting celebrity chefs involved in advocating British fish.”
Sheryll Murray, Conservative MP for South-East Cornwall, who organized the call with coastal MPs, said Boris Johnson himself could front a campaign to promote previously obscure British-caught fish.
“I think he comes into his own, the prime minister, with his PR, and if anybody can sell to the British public ‘buy red mullet, buy John Dory, buy grey mullet,’ then I think he will have a darn good go,” she told BBC South West political editor Martyn Oates.
In his call to MPs, Mr. Johnson promised an “action plan” to deal with export problems.
Great Grimsby MP Lia Nici told BBC political reporter Sarah Sanderson: “We discussed short-term measures how to make sure that businesses can stay viable with the problems they’re having – but also longer-term legislation and what the UK can do to grow the industry in the future.”
The PM is also understood to have urged coastal communities to invest in infrastructure to prepare for larger catches, as boats are allowed to land more from UK waters over the next five years.
But Barrie Deas said the expanded quotas would “not provide the level of additional fishing opportunities necessary to underpin the regeneration of our coastal communities.”
And Labour’s shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said “no amount of topspin from the prime minister” would make the industry’s structural problems go away.
He wanted people to eat more British fish, he added, but “this in itself will not save the fishing industry from going under because of the poor deal that’s been achieved over our exit from the European Union.”