As part of The Science of Fish and Chips on 31 October, over 200 people were asked to identify the species of battered fish from four different options in a blind taste test. While people declared their favourite fish was the relatively unpopular UK choice of hake, only 15% of people could correctly identify the more commonly ordered cod.
Dr Stefano Mariani, a marine biologist from the School of Environment & Life Sciences, organised the event to highlight the misconceptions people have about the fish they eat from their local chippy, and to educate visitors about the lifecycles, stocks and sources of the most common fish consumed in the UK.
As part of this education process he also brought along raw fish – which few people were able to identify by sight. Only a tiny minority were able to correctly identify a sea bass, gurnard, haddock, cod or trout. The fish and chips were provided by UK authority, Seafish.
Dr Mariani said: “Considering the British obsession with cod it is amazing how few people can identify the species either by sight or taste. Ironically, most people seemed to prefer the hake which is caught in British waters but generally exported to Spain or France. On the other hand, most of the cod we eat is caught off Scandinavian coastlines.”
The Science of Fish and Chips was one of nine events put on by the University of Salford as part of Manchester Science Festival. From 27 October to 4 November, dozens of events were held across Greater Manchester designed to stimulate interest in the scientific world and engage families and adults.
Fifty-five people took part in the fish taste test. The correct identification percentages were:
· Haddock: 39%
· Hake: 38%
· Pollock: 28%
· Cod: 15%
Dr Mariani concluded: “Education into fish can help us manage our stocks better. If people know that they will enjoy a greater variety of types, then it will help to prevent over-reliance on, and overfishing of, a small number of species.”