EU Law: No Discards on Fish Catches
After intense negotiations which lasted throughout the night, EU ministers thrashed out a deal on discarding dead fish caught at sea. Earlier this month MEPs voted against the practice by a large majority of 502 to 137, despite a powerful lobby from industrial fisheries in Portugal, Spain and France.
Celebrities such as chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have campaigned for years to have the practice outlawed. It is estimated that between one quarter and one third of healthy, edible fish are thrown back into the sea, usually dead. This can be for various reasons, either because the fish are less valuable than the desired catch, or because fisherman have caught their quotas or have no quotas for the species in question.
Speaking live after the historic vote, UK fisheries minister Richard Benyon described the decision by EU ministers as “a historic moment in reforming the broken common fisheries policy” (CFP).
“The scandal of discards has gone on for too long and I’m delighted that the UK has taken such a central role in securing this agreement.” Though he expressed some disappointment that the measures did not go far enough, he also suggested that the final ban could be more severe than that presently agreed.
The agreement will see the discarding of edible fish banned for stocks including herring and whiting from January 2014. A ban for white fish stocks was also agreed, to begin in January 2016.
Spain, France and Portugal managed to cling on to some restricted exemptions on fish discards, particularly relating to crews operating far from land in mixed fisheries where the cost of landing unwanted fish is deemed to be prohibitive.
Campaigns like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘discards campaign’ and Greta Scacchi’s ‘Fishlove’ have attracted widespread UK support, and the ‘discards’ petition has so far attracted over 850,000 signatures.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has now embarked upon a new campaign to increase the number of Marine Conservation Zones. On Monday he led hundreds of campaigners in a march to Westminster. There are currently 31 “marine conservation zones” (MCZs), which were formed after more than £8million was spent on identifying 127 areas where dolphins, seahorses and other rare species most need protection.