Fisheries ministers consider discard ban

European ministers will meet tomorrow, Tuesday, to discuss a proposal by the Commission on how to end the wasteful discarding of fish.

The practice of throwing back dead or dying fish overboard – in some areas as much as two thirds of the catch – has been getting a lot of attention after the british TV campaign “Fish Fight” last month. More than 650.000 people have signed a letter urging the European Commission to ban discards.

It is therefore with unprecedented public pressure that European fisheries ministers and members of the European parliament will meet on Tuesday to discuss how to end discards. The basis for the discussion will be an outline proposal presented by Maria Damanaki, the Fisheries commissioner.

Today, the EU has a landing quota system where fishermen are not allowed to land fish that are too young or for which they have no quota, which means fish are thrown overboard. In the North Sea alone, discards are estimated to be about 500.000 to 800.000 tonnes.

A document circulated by the Commission suggests two ways of ending discards, either through an Effort Management System or a Catch Quota System.

Under both systems, all catches would have to be landed. Under an effort system, incentives to falsely declare catches are meant to be removed as landings would not be counted against quotas. Mixed fisheries would instead be managed by controlling the time spent at sea.

Under a catch quota system, all catches should be landed and counted against quotas. Compliance is suggested to be enforced with a range of measures including CCTV cameras on vessels above 12 meters.

“Implementing a discard ban is possible,” the Commission writes in the outline proposal, noting that both the effort system and the catch quota system have their advantages and disadvantages.

Officials working with Maria Damanaki say that the meeting tomorrow will not result in any immediate new proposals. The intention of the meeting is to hear the ministers’ views on discards, so that they can be taken into account by the Commission in preparing the proposal for a new Common Fisheries Policy.

According to the website fish2fork, Maria Damanaki is understood to have the backing of the British, Danish, German, French and Belgian ministers in calling for an end to discards.

In a blog post on the same web site, the Danish fisheries minister, Henrik Høeg, expresses his support for a catch quota system. Under such a system, he writes, “fishermen will have to use their skills and technology to innovate and fish selectively.” The website reports that Scotland’s fisheries minister has complained about being excluded from the meeting.

Related articles:
EU fisheries commissioner pledges to end ‘nightmare of discards’ (Guardian)
FAO: Fisheries experts agree on first global guidelines on reducing fishing discards
“Fish should be caught only after they reach their optimal length”
North Sea Ministers agree declaration against discards

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