Trawlers dump 900 tonnes of fish
Over 900 tonnes of fish were dumped back into the sea by Northern Ireland’s fishermen last year thanks to a controversial European policy.
Both fishermen and environmentalists have condemned the waste incurred by discarding small fish that don’t meet the regulations set down in the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.
Most of the discarded fish are dead, according to UUP deputy leader John McCallister, who questioned Fisheries Minister Michelle Gildernew about the practice.
Following the Assembly question, Ms Gildernew revealed that 906 tonnes of cod, haddock and whiting were discarded by Northern Ireland fishing vessels last year alone, despite dwindling cod stocks in the Irish Sea.
Over the last four years some 2,000 tonnes of whiting have been dumped, along with 1,100 tonnes of haddock and 20 tonnes of cod.
The minister said: “Fish may be discarded for several reasons other than the need to comply with fish quota limits.
“The majority of discards by our fleet are for fish below minimum landing size. These fish have no market value, as they cannot be legally landed or sold.
“The data shows relatively low discards of marketable size fish.”
Mr McCallister condemned the waste of discarding such huge numbers of small, dead fish, calling on the European Commission to invest in equipment that makes it impossible to catch them in the first place.
He said: “While I understand the need to have measures to protect the future of fish stocks in the Irish Sea, dumping 906 tonnes of dead fish back into the water is doing neither the animal nor the fishing industry any good.
“Rather than making fishermen dump small, dead fish, the European Commission should really be investing in measures and equipment that makes it almost impossible for these small fish to be caught in the first place.”
The debate comes as Ms Gildernew vowed to battle quota cuts proposed by the European Commission.
The cuts, which will be debated at the December Fisheries Council, include a further 50% cut in cod catches and a 15% cut in haddock.