Aquaculture for all

Fish Discards To End


EU - Maria Damanaki, the European fisheries commissioner, will this Tuesday unveil a proposal to ban the controversial practice of discards, a perverse consequence of a Brussels-devised quota system.

She and her officials say they are responding to the pressure for reform of Europes fishing policies placed on them by a letter signed by more than 650,000 people following a series of television programmes by Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Ms Damanaki is understood to have the backing of Richard Benyon, Britains fishing minister, as well as the Danish, German, French and Belgian ministers in calling for an end to the practice.

But Spain and other southern European countries are understood to oppose the plan because the reforms would mean fishermen had to stop when they have exceeded their quota, or buy quota from other fishermen to cover their extra catches. They would also have to accept enforcement measures such as having CCTV on all vessels or accept the imposition of observers to ensure fishermen did not discard illegally.

Ms Damanakis proposal, which has been seen by The Sunday Times, suggests that all catches should be landed and counted against quota. Discards of pelagic fish such as mackerel, herring and blue whiting would be banned in the first year after the reforms came into force. In the second year, the ban would be extended to trawl fisheries in which two or more species, such as cod and langoustines, were caught.

The ban would encourage fishermen to use their ingenuity to catch just the fish they wanted to land, by using larger mesh sizes and excluder trawls, which allow cod to escape through open panels but catch haddock, which move differently.

Commenting on this, WWF-UK’s Fisheries Policy Officer, Giles Bartlett, said: “Discards are a wasteful and environmentally damaging practice. However, to protect the marine environment and create healthy sustainable fish stocks, any steps to end discards must go hand-in-hand with action to identify more selective ways to fish.

“Any reform of the CFP must have at its core the reduction of discards to minimal levels and support the ability for fishermen to adopt local, solution-oriented systems to avoid non-targeted or non-commercial catches.

“The recent Catch Quota trials that have been undertaken in Scotland and in England have clearly shown that – given supportive policy incentives – UK fishermen can deliver significant reductions in discards.

“Evidence from around the world is increasingly showing that a management system based on controlling fishing effort only is less likely to achieve desirable biological or economic outcomes, in terms of reduced discards and a profitable industry over the medium to long-term.

“Reform of the CFP is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to deliver a long term future for fishing communities by constructing a legal framework that brings an end to indiscriminate fishing, unacceptable damage to the marine environment and a scandalous waste of food resources.”

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