“Half of the fish caught in the North Sea today are thrown away, dead, because of an EU fisheries policy that is no longer fit for purpose
” – a damning conclusion made by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, one of Britain's leading food writers, who has made it his mission to end the wasteful practice of fish discards.
But it seems the EU Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki
, has taken note of the problem and has sensationally pledged that ‘no more fish will be thrown away by fleets in European seas
’ in what would mark a radical change to the common fisheries policy that has operated for 40 years.
The policy change has come in light of the success of Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign
, and more than 650,000 citizens signed a petition calling for discards to be banned following the emission of a TV programme on the subject and the campaign. Reacting to the public response provoked by the Fish Fight campaign, Ms Damanaki admitted that current EU policy has encouraged fish discards
, and later told the Guardian
“we can't go on like this, with this nightmare of discards. We need a new policy.
Currently, as explained by the Fish Fight campaign, the problem is that in a mixed fishery where many different fish live together, fishermen cannot control the species that they catch. Fishing for one species often means catching another, and if people don’t want them or fishermen are not allowed to land them, the only option is to throw the fish back overboard. Since discards are not monitored, it is difficult to know exactly how many fish are being thrown away, but the EU estimates that in the North Sea, discards are between 40% and 60% of the total catch.
But under reforms soon to be presented by Ms Damanaki to ministers, fishermen will instead have to land their entire catch
– whether the fish are saleable or not – and then be counted against the quotas. Also expected to feature within the new proposals are methods to regulate fishing fleets through imposing limits on fishing time and making greater use of surveillance measures such as CCTV, electronic logbooks and the monitoring of ports. Ms Damanaki hopes these reforms will form part of a reformed Common Fisheries Policy
South West MEP Graham Watson
has welcomed the news and said he was pleased to hear the ‘deplorable
’ discard practice would end, but urged policy makers to find a credible solution which balances the safety and prosperity of small fishermen alongside conserving fish stocks for future generations.
“There are several options to reform the Common Fisheries Policy on the table, including an effort based system and a catch quota system which would close complete areas of fishing grounds once stocks of a certain species have reached their maximum quota,
” he said
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