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One Third Of Fish Caught Thrown Back Dead

Cod Sustainability +3 more

SCOTLAND, UK - One third of fish caught in North Sea are thrown back dead, reported the Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead.

"Throwing dead fish back in the sea rather than landing them is an environmental failure that will do nothing for the future of the North Sea cod fishery," Mr Lochhead said.

Speaking as the final round of negotiations to set 2011 EU fishing quotas gets under way, the Fisheries Secretary said it was time for the EU to amend its Cod Recovery Plan to one based on landing all fish caught rather than promoting discards and attempting to manage by the amount of time a vessel spends at sea.

Richard Lochhead said: "Scotland has been at the forefront of pushing alternatives to the culture of discards imposed by Europe's flawed fisheries policy that forces fishermen to dump good quality fish back overboard, dead into the sea. This is a waste of a valuable food and economic resource. Nobody gains from discards, it is an abhorrent practice that can't be tolerated.

"Throwing dead fish back into the sea will do nothing for cod recovery or deliver the main aim of harvesting fish stocks sustainably. In 2009, 60,000 tonnes of North Sea whitefish worth £68 million were landed in Scotland, while the total catches were 88,000 tonnes worth an estimated £101 million. This means that almost 28,000 tonnes, and a third of the value of the Scottish cod, haddock, whiting, saithe, plaice and hake catch was thrown back into the sea last year; £33m of fish wasted economically and environmentally in one year.
"This is a consequence of a European policy that determines quotas and catches based on what is landed rather than what is caught. It is why we, in Scotland, have been saying that the way forward must be to 'catch less, land more'. That is, a system where fishermen catch fewer fish in the first place, yet land more of what they do catch. We estimate that a system of no discarding cod and haddock could add as much as £16 million to the value of North Sea fisheries.

"This is the time of year when vital negotiations take place between the EU and other North Sea fishing nations. I will propose that our catch quota trial be extended to one where any fisherman can take part, and to benefit from an increased 'catch quota'. I will also press to extend the scheme to cover other stocks such as haddock, whiting and plaice.

"The pressure on cod stocks is very real and the need for sustained action cannot be dismissed. However, the plan as it stands has brought about the needless waste of thousands of fish for no gain to the environment, the industry or the consumer. It is time to press for a change in approach before its too late."

WWF Scotland’s Fisheries Policy Officer, Mireille Thom, said: “The recovery plan in place for cod stocks is not effective in tackling the problem of catches beyond quotas, leading to the unacceptable waste of fish through discards. Better implementation and enforcement of the conservation measures are urgently needed across the whole fishery.

“The need for effective discard reduction measures are long overdue and long-term management plans based on fisheries rather than single fish stocks must be enforced in the upcoming reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy.”

Trials carried out by a number of vessels in Scotland, England and Denmark in using the catch quota system have shown the benefits that this system can bring in cod fisheries. Such fisheries are fully documented using onboard cameras. Catch quotas limit the amount of fish removed from the sea, rather than recording what is landed. They are a strong incentive for fishermen to fish more selectively and should encourage all EU and international partners to move towards this mode of management.