“The Danish Presidency will try to bring discards to an end”

Ending discards and ensuring responsible fisheries agreements with third countries are two important elements of a sustainable fisheries policy, writes Mette Gjerskov, Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries.

Mette GjerskovThe EU has in its hands the chance to forge a new model of green and economically viable growth. This also counts for fisheries. The Common Fisheries Policy, CFP, is a perfect testing ground for the green growth vision of the Danish EU Presidency. Fisheries is a sector where economy is very much dependent on the environment, and the environmental aspects will be of utmost importance in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

The reform proposal that was launched by Commissioner Damanaki in July 2011, focuses on ensuring the sustainable management of fisheries resources and the protection of ecosystems. It is not solely about ensuring jobs and catches this year and next year. It is also about future earnings, it is about healthy maritime ecosystems and it is about high quality fish products for future consumers.

Terminating discards
To ensure sustainable fisheries we must address the discard problems. The Danish Presidency will strive to get rid of unwanted catches and try to bring discards to an end. We must remember that discarding is throwing fish back into the sea. Dead fish. It goes without saying that this is a terrible waste of food and a waste of resources which jeopardizes important stocks.

Denmark and Sweden are prepared – together with Norway – to pioneer on a ban on discards. In November 2011, Denmark, Sweden and Norway signed a declaration banning discards in the Skagerrak by 1 January 2013. I hope that the Danish-Swedish example will serve as inspiration for other EU Member States. As chair of the Council I will, however, be open towards other ways of attaining our goal.

Agreements with third countries
Another important aspect of ensuring responsible and sustainable fisheries is the so called external dimension – ‘the foreign policy’ of the CFP. This is also part of the Commission’s proposal, and the Danish Presidency will work for Fisheries Partnership Agreements being based on the same standards as those applicable to the EU’s own waters. We must make sure that the EU fishermen only fish available surplus stocks, and the agreements must also benefit the countries we make agreements with.

The EU has a responsibility when it comes to the poor countries of the world, and strategic decisions in fisheries must not be made without considering the potential side effects for poor countries. Healthy maritime ecosystems and jobs in the fisheries sector are matters of concern both inside and outside the EU.

Goals for Council meetings during the Danish Presidency
The Common Fisheries Policy reform will be debated at the Council meeting in March, April, May and June, and it is my intention to adopt Council conclusions on the external dimension as early as at the Council in March.

As to the entire Common Fisheries Policy reform it is my hope that the Council will reach a general approach on a sustainable CFP in June. This will allow the Council to start negotiating with our important counterpart, the European Parliament, in the second half of 2012.

Regarding the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund the Presidency has scheduled an orientation debate at the Council meeting in March aiming at a partial general approach also in June.

Mette Gjerskov
Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, chair of the AGRIFISH Council

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  • Ian

    EU discards politic
    2008 —   Fisheries Management and Research – the birthplace
    of an unsustainable and unethical malpractice.  
    There is consensus across the EU (and world) that
    discarding of fish is a waste of much-needed natural resources and
    needs reducing. According to the EU, the main reason for the huge
    amount of discarding is excessive catching effort, and that capacity
    need reducing even further. The number of fishing vessels in Denmark
    and Scotland are all ready greatly reduced since the launch of the
    decommissioning program a few years ago. Discarding has increased
    year by year in certain fisheries. The amount of cod discarded in the
    Scottish whitefish fishery in the North Sea was greater in 2008 than
    in 2007, despite various measures of mitigation. Discards could at
    times be as much as, 80% by number and 40% by weight of each catch.
    Discards of cod were mainly of fish over the legal landing size 35cm.
    The term “discards” is rather vague, since the term
    covers everything that is caught and subsequently thrown back into
    the sea. That use of active fishing gear accounts for by far the
    largest amounts of discards. Discarding can be caused by: •
    Discards of fish below the minimum landing size, due to poor size
    selection properties of net meshes. • Catch of non-target
    species. • Hi-grading, retention of only the largest and
    best-paid fish,. This is most often due to low quota or quota that
    does not extend to as by catch in other fisheries. • Can also
    occur as “invisible” catches of juvenile cod, haddock and whiting
    in fishing for species in the production of meal and oil. •
    Catch of non-commercial species and benthos. The EU’s plan
    for re building demersal fish stocks in the North Sea has been
    strongly influenced by castle in the sky thinking and is shamefully
    ineffective. The plan has lacked potency, both practical and
    political. It helps little with fishing capacity and quota
    reductions, when these reductions do not affect the behaviours of
    fishermen to the positive for the fish stocks, some thing which in
    turn will again benefit the fishermen. Fishermen in the North Sea
    have been entrapped over a long period in a negative spiral of bone
    scraped fish quotas and the insane mandatory practice of returning
    under sized and non-target fish back to the sea, fish that in reality
    are either dead or dying. Minimum landing sizes need to be related
    towards the protection of fish under spawning age. The best
    protection for immature fish is by avoidance. .Fishermen and
    scientists around the North Sea basin have worked intensely to prove
    that it is possible to reduce the amount of discards in their
    respective fisheries… An example of this is the Fisheries Science
    Partnership in Scotland and England, where the fishermen themselves
    have taken the initiative to provide real-time-area closures and to
    use the trawls with a better selection capability. The goal is to
    achieve “conservation credits” that would justify larger
    quotas based on less discards. . Fishermen in Denmark have developed
    the use of video surveillance (CCTV) in order to document both the
    capture and quantity of discards. The catch of under sized fish has
    been effectively reduced through the increase of mesh sizes and the
    use of trawl types that exploit the fish’s natural behaviour: •
    Nephrop trawls with low height, and without netting in the square and
    over belly – reducing the catch of haddock, whiting and at times cod.
    • Flounder Trawl with low height, and without netting in the
    roof – reducing the catch of haddock, whiting and sometimes cod. •
    Separatortrawl / seine separate cod / demersal fish from haddock and
    whiting. • Eliminatortrawl, separates fish / bottom fish from
    haddock and whiting. • Orkneytrawl, reduce catches of
    cod-especially juveniles • Square mesh cod ends. • Four
    panel extension piece,T 90 meshes in bottom and sides in conjunction
    with the square mesh top panel. • Sorting grid. The use
    of more selective trawl types and devices are not without
    consequences. Research shows the loss of certain types of catch / by
    catch. This loss can lead to weakened economy in the short term, but
    can be compensated in the long term with larger quotas. . .
    To date, the EU’s “policy makers” have lacked the will to
    implement the most relevant technical devices most suited to the
    dynamics of the various fisheries. Fisheries management is not
    just about the management of fisheries resources, but also that of
    human behaviours. Management of fisheries must become less academic
    and more “hands on”   Fisheries management in EU
    and Norway need to become better at using the “carrot and the
    stick” approach, instead of” chemotherapy and amputation”
    as the “cure”. Take for example, fisheries in the U.S.A, where
    fishermen are given access to certain areas on the condition that
    they use a separatortrawl in fishing for haddock. The paradox is that
    the separator trawl originated from Scotland. Fisheries
    in the North Sea are now showing signs of a positive development. The
    big question now is what will be necessary to keep the development
    moving in a forward direction? We need to strengthen and intensify
    cooperation between the fishing fleet, scientists and the Coast Guard
    to be able to practice “real-time management. Resource
    management must focus on having an overview and management of fish
    stocks and not only to maintain control over the fishermen. Effective
    “polising” of fisheries depends on: attendance, ability /
    means to uncover non compliance, effective sanctions, and not least
    a “good working relationship” based on professional
    knowledge and mutual respect. . The proposal for a reduction in
    days at sea is certainly not a good solution. What the fishermen need
    now is rather an increase in days and the possibility to plan and
    execute an ecological and economically viable fishery. Fishermen are
    “practitioners” of the highest calibre and possess of an
    ocean of knowledge and ability to solve the challenges related to the
    future of their industry. Norway has a unique position and
    chance to influence the EU’s fisheries policy in a positive
    direction. The fishing industry has the necessary will and tools: the
    question is whether the government has the courage and resolve to
    make the use of them! Ian Kinsey


  • http://twitter.com/PecheFraiche Yan Giron

    Thank you Ian for pointing out the existing initiatives. I share your view, fishing gear selectivity is the way. Maybe should be more urgent than a ban discard.

    I just wonder why nobody mentionned the role of Fixed Quota Allocated in UK in their North Sea high level of discarding, especially in high grading ?

    FQA are nearly like ITQ or TFC. Sure the question of the role of TAC level is to be questionned regarding discards and high grading. But the way to share them at a national level is a huge issue and has nothing to do with Europe. And with a ITQ, you also need to maximise the use of your quota, especially when the loan of your quota amounts nearly 50% of your whole operating costs.

    Actually, in multispecies fisheries, you do not really have the choice : if you want to implement ITQs, you need to implement a ban discard to prevent high grading. Isn’t it surprising that the forthcoming EU ban discard will only involve European-quota species ? Normally, a ban discard is there to encourage selectivity and decreasing of bycatching.

    According to me, ITQs and Ban discard EC proposition are highly linked, as you can not implement the first at a full extent without the latter. If you are not favourishing ITQs implementation, have a close look to the consequences of supporting a ban discard to European-quota-species only, rather than supporting selectivity implementation at a whole scale.

    Moreover, selectivity according to juveniles could improve the profile of exploitation, and enable with the same fishing effort to catch more fish in quantity, because there will be bigger fish in the sea. In this case you will decrease fishing mortallity and safeguard fishing effort and related employement. Yan Giron

  • Ian

    Catch Quota scheme and the use of CCTV  cameras.

    The use of CCTV surveillance cameras has been in use on
    board fishing vessels now for some 30 years.   Fishermen have in general
     reacted positive to having their place of work under surveillance,,
    seeing the benefits of  having the skipper being able to hold a watchful
    eye on what at times is a dangerous workplace.  The use of CCTV cameras
    to record and document catches, and working practises is something
    else. There are few occupations that are subject to the amount of micro
    management as the fishing industry – so whom in their “right mind” would
    voluntarily consent to more control? –  A “madman”?, a “desperado”? –
    or maybe a fed up, desperate and conscientious hard working fisherman,
    with the courage to make positive changes, and document them in the

    Fishermen all
    around the North Sea have been entrapped over a long period in a
    negative spiral of bone scraped fish quotas and the insane mandatory
    practise of returning under MLS, non- target species and over quota fish
    over MLS back to the sea, fish that in reality are either dead or
    dying. A  discarded dead fish is a dead fish – where dead fish over MLS
     are a loss of income for the fisherman in the present time, where as discarded dead fish under MLS are aloss of his future.
     Minimum landing sizes need to be related towards the protection of
    fish under spawning age. The best protection for immature fish is by
    avoidance. The fishermen blame the scientists for inaccurate data on
    which they base their quota recommendations on – the EU Fisheries
    Commission blames the fisherman and his “non compliance” for the
    terrible state of the stocks, and  hence the need for low TAC,s and even
    bigger reductions of days at sea. The method used by the EU Fisheries
    Commission and it,s under lying management is a classic sawing off the
    table legs , bit by bit in the hope of getting rid of the wobble – and
    sadly only resulting in the table being reduced to no more than just a
    plank! The intelligent approach would be to put a wedge or shim under
    the short leg, but no!, its more of the same old medicine – ” chemotherapy and amputation” as the “cure”,  instead of the  “carrot and the stick” approach.

    The Catch quota scheme is a step in the
    right direction in documenting that it is fully possible to  make huge
    reductions  of fish that otherwise would have been discarded – the big
    shame is that it only covers cod and not other species.

    Incentives to take part in
    the CQS come from amongst other reasons, the extra quota allowance of
    cod given to participating vessels,  on the condition they document and
    land all cod catches. So where do the “extra quota ” allowances come
    from? When the scientists put forward their recommendations as to the
    size of the TAC,s, they are made from an assumption as to the present
    state of the breeding stock biomass, and to some degree it,s interaction
    with other species. The scientist takes also into account assumed
    mortality due to discarding and unaccountable natural mortality due to
    predation etc. The extra allowances come from the “discard allowance” –
    fish that is assumed to be caught and discarded anyway. Many fishermen
    ponder over why the scheme has  not been expanded to include a greater
    number of vessels and to other species. maybe the reason lies in the
    fact that the scheme has been subject to controversy, with for example:
    the scepticism to CCTV and the “surveillance society”, cost of managing
    the scheme etc. The scheme cannot be expanded indefinitely  due to the
    limits of “the discard quota” base. 

    So where is the CQS going, and what should
    it lead to in the near and not so distant future? There reigns no doubt
    that catching and discarding both marketable and juvenile fish is an
    unethical misuse of much needed marine resources. The way forward can
    only be through reducing mortality,  by using  a combination of fishing
    gear with better selective and environmental  properties, and spatial/
    temporal restrictions  – proof of this is documented by the CQS and
    numerous other selection and avoidance initiatives suggested and
    implemented by the industry over recent years. It has been estimated
    that the Scottish fleet alone have discarded  marketable fish over MLS
     to the value of approx 30-40 million Gbp yearly. These figures do not
    take into account future losses due to discarding of juveniles. 

    The catching  sector and management  has an
    array of discard mitigating measures at their disposition. Management
    has also the legislative powers to implement them.  The cost of
    implementing and legislating a fast tracking ” gear change” must be seen
     only as a “drop in the ocean”, compared to the vast amount of revenue
    the fishing industry loses each year through bad exploitation practises.
     EU fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki informed the fishing industry
     in 2011, that funding will be made available  through the EU Axis 4
    European Fisheries Fund, to assist in  making the transition to more
    sustainable fishing practises. Funds will not be available before the
    EFF 2014  funding period. Wasting good fish is unethical – wasting
    valuable time when we have the means to radically improve exploitation
    practises  and  minimise waste through discarding is outright stupidity.
    The EU,s fishing Industry cannot afford a two year wait for funding. A
    guarantee for funding “gear changes” should be given the
    highest priority.

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