EU ministers to ban fish discards
Ministers from across the EU will take the first steps this week towards ending the practice of discarding fish at sea, in the most radical change to fisheries policy in 40 years.
At the first high level meeting on the subject, the EU fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, is expected to drive home her message that the current system of fishing quotas must be reformed to spare fishermen the need to throw away large amounts of their catch.
But she is likely to face opposition from some quarters, as member states with large fishing industries jockey for position to try to ensure their fleets enjoy the best deal on quotas.
Richard Benyon, the UK’s fisheries minister, said: “The battle lines will be drawn across Europe. We have to change this practice, which is something people rightly find offensive.”
The Guardian: Read more
Plan to end discards protects fishermen for the long haul
When we started our campaign against discards, I was surprised by the fantastic sign-up to our petition – 653,000 people so far. Discards are an emotive issue – people are appalled by images of fish being thrown back into the sea, dead and dying. Many of us had an inkling this was going on, but most didn’t realise the scale of the problem – and people needed to know. When we brought it to public attention, I expected a good response, but in fact it was overwhelming.
I would like to think it’s hard to ignore more than half a million signatures. Now discards are at the heart of common fisheries policy reform, and that is where the issue needs to be. It’s too early to talk of success, but I am thrilled the problem is getting a serious airing in Brussels. Maria Damanaki, the fisheries commissioner, has made a bold move, and I applaud that.
Fishermen hate discarding – it is anathema to them, as they want to bring back their catch to sell for a fair price. Yet in some quarters, including representatives of the Scottish fleet, this proposal has been dismissed as a threat to fishermen’s livelihoods. It was perhaps unfortunate that Scotland was not independently represented in Brussels. As it was, the whole of the UK was represented by Richard Benyon, the fisheries minister in Westminster.
Some have been too quick to condemn the proposal. Understandably, fishermen fear there are going to be more restrictions on what they can do, and it will be harder to make a living. But when all fish caught are landed for sale, and none thrown away, that should provide for bigger quotas while still wasting less fish. I believe fishermen would like to work in waters where they are not obliged to discard fish. If they can still land a reasonable amount and take them to market, they should have no fear of compulsory landing. But the transition needs to be managed well.
And perhaps anyone who thinks that a ban on discards is not the right way to go has an obligation to explain how to do it better.
But the aim of our campaign was never to dictate policy in Brussels. We set out to show the extent of public outrage on discards, and force politicians to act on it. The Commissioner has made a bold move, but is just the beginning of the debate. I can only hope they come back with a new CFP that both eliminates discards and provides fishermen with a chance to make a living.
Source: The Guardian
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