By Christine Lavelle
SCOTLAND has seen a dramatic decline in the ‘Fish Friday’ tradition, with thousands saying they would not touch fish after watching Finding Nemo.
Eating fish on a Friday used to be seen as an end of the week treat, but a survey has found that only six per cent of Scots regularly uphold the healthy tradition – even though 85 per cent are aware of it.
And, although six out of 10 people across the UK say they are conscious of the health benefits, only 13 per cent opt to feed their family fish on a Friday.
The reasons given for rejecting the long-established routine include a rise in eating out at the weekends, and choosing to order fast food takeaways that are much more widely available now.
In the survey conducted by fish processor John West, 12 per cent of Scots said they did not eat fish regularly because it is too expensive.
But – some reasons were far more bizarre than others.
The survey revealed that around 2.4 million people in the UK are put off by the bones in fish, while another 2.4 million say they do not like the eyes, and 1.8 million people are afraid they will not cook the fish properly.
And, around 400,000 people said they will not touch fish because they or their children have seen the film Finding Nemo.
The animated film tells the story of a friendly clown fish trying to find his way home.
James Martin, a TV chef, said he believes Britain’s health is suffering as a result.
He said: “The UK Food Standards Agency suggests we should all be eating two fish meals a week for our health.
“But with the decline of the Friday fish supper, and fears about how to cook fish correctly, many of us are failing to meet this target.”
Schools and offices have also abandoned the tradition over the years, and the City of Edinburgh Council said the majority of their schools no longer serve fish on Fridays – but some do offer it on a Thursday instead.
Eating fish on a Friday originally came from an early church tradition of refraining from eating meat at the end of the week – particularly during Lent.
It became popular during the Great Depression and the Second World War, as fish was often cheaper and more available to consumers than meat.
It also sparked the British tradition of a fish supper, with many Scots visiting their fish and chip shop on a Friday evening.
However, despite the drop in Scots partaking in the tradition, around 76 per cent of Scots do eat fish once or twice a week, and retailers say Friday is still their most popular day for sales.
Jeremy Langley, fish buyer for Waitrose, said: “Our two strongest days for fish sales are always Friday and Saturday, which would suggest that to a certain extent people are still buying fish for a Friday, or perhaps the weekend.
“However, fish sales are extremely strong consistently throughout the week, which suggests perhaps the move away from Fish Friday is down to fish becoming a more everyday meal.
“Strong sales of fish may also be partially down to consumers becoming increasingly concerned with healthy eating.”
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s supermarkets said: “Friday is our best day for fish, with over 20 per cent of our weekly sales taking place on that day.”
A John West spokesman said: “Studies show that people who eat fish regularly are less likely to suffer from hart disease and stroke.
“Fish is a good source of protein and vitamins and minerals.”