Aquaculture for all

Discarding Moves Higher On CFP Agenda


EU - Discarding is a key challenge in fisheries management, said EC Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, as she proposed a discard ban as part of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform.

In the whitefish fishery up to half of the catch is thrown overboard and in the flatfish fishery we are even talking about 70 per cent of the catches being discarded.

Ms Damanaki said: "I consider discarding of fish unethical, a waste of natural resources and a waste of fishermen’s effort."

Addressing Ministers and Members of the European Parliament, she said that if this practice was continued, not only would we face a situation where the production capacity of marine ecosystems is at risk, but also where discarding erodes the economic basis of our fishermen and coastal regions.

"If discarding continues, consumers will turn away from fish," Ms Damanaki said.

To tackle the issue head on, Ms Damanaki proposed a discard ban as part of the CFP reforms.

"My idea would be to have a gradual approach. For example we can start with the pelagic fisheries, and then cover a few important demersal mixed fisheries after a short phase in period. The list of species covered by a discard ban could then be enlarged year by year."

Discussing which management system to use, in order to manage fish stocks, the Commissioner proposed two possibilities.

"The first possibility would be to only manage our mixed fisheries with an effort system. The idea is to preserve relative stability by translating the relative stability in quotas into a relative stability in effort for mixed fisheries. Such a management system is relatively simple as all catches would need to be landed. Control is also easy as the time spent at sea can be easily controlled by the vessel monitoring system.

"Another possibility is the catch quota system with by catch quotas. All catches would have to be counted against quotas and then later against the by catch quotas. In such a system it would also be necessary that Member States allocate quotas more in line with the real possible catches of their vessels. A catch quota system would need guarantees that it would work, because it will be more complicated.

"Whatever system is chosen in the end, whether it is effort management or catch quotas, a discard ban needs consistency in all rules of the CFP. We need consistency in market measures. Also the control pillars of the CFP, will be very important. We will need CCTV or observers on board vessels above a certain length."

Concluding, Ms Damanaki said that we owe it to our fishing industry to do something about discarding. She said that it is essential that a discard ban is discussed as part of the CFP reform and that new CFP have "sustainability written all over it".

She acknowledged the complexity of the subject, but was keen to have an open discussion involving all member states, stakeholders and citizens.

This announcement has received positive feedback from the industry.

Brendan Smith, Minister of Fisheries in Ireland said that tackling discards was a priority for Ireland, when reviewing the CFP. He said that there was no disagreement between Ireland and the Commissioner on the objective to reduce discards, the discussion is about the means to achieve this objective.

In the UK, Andrew Kuyk, Director of Sustainability at the Food and Drink Federation said: “FDF has been at the forefront of efforts to secure radical reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and end the unforgiveable waste of resources caused by discarding perfectly edible fish at sea.

“We were happy to support Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall's campaign and have directly lobbied EU Commissioner Maria Damanaki in our own right as part a wider industry alliance with WWF supporting a new approach to EU fisheries management. Today's meeting in Brussels is a very welcome first step in addressing these concerns and we congratulate the Commissioner for responding so clearly to industry and public opinion in this way. We look forward to continuing to work with her and other industry partners as the reform debate progresses.”

WWF-UK’s Fisheries Policy Officer, Giles Bartlett, said: We are glad that the wasteful and environmentally damaging issue of discards has been discussed by European ministers today.

"However, solving the problem of discards must go hand-in-hand with steps to ensure greater selectivity of the fish that are caught. To help protect vulnerable stocks and the wider marine environment we must ensure non-target or non-commercial catches are avoided in the first place.

"In reforming the CFP we must allow for local solutions against centrally set objectives, such as eliminating discards. Ending over fishing and discards is feasible provided that fisheries ministers commit to an ambitious reform of the CFP, favouring long-term health of our fish stocks and fishing industry."

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