Fish discards ban discussed by EC
A ban on dumping dead fish back in the sea is likely to figure in proposals to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the European Commission said.
The move follows months of growing concern that current CFP rules on catch quotas are actually encouraging dumping on a massive scale - undermining the conservation measures the policy should promote.
EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, speaking at special talks in Brussels on the problem of so-called "discards", said: "So far we have tried to tackle discards with technical measures. But let's be honest, if we continue this it is like treating a serious illness with aspirin, we have to recognise that our policy gives sometimes incentives to discarding."
She said that in 2004 alone, an estimated 7.3 million tonnes of fish - 8% of total EU fish catches in that year - were dumped back in the sea.
In the European whitefish industry, up to half the catch is thrown overboard - and as much as 70% in the flatfish fishery.
Under current CFP rules, fishing fleets governed by catch limits for certain species cannot land their "by-catch" - any species of fish they have netted accidentally or which take vessels over their allocated quota. The so-called "discard" is thrown back, dead, into the sea.
The commissioner was addressing EU fisheries ministers and MEPs. She said one option was to oblige fishermen to land all catches, including the "by-catch" of species not included in their official quota.
UK trials are already going with such a system in the North Sea cod fishery, involving 23 English and Scottish vessels. The scheme counts all fish caught, including the "discard", as part of the total cod quota, obliging fishermen to stop fishing once their tonnage limit is reached, regardless of species.
The Government says the system puts the responsibility on fishermen to use their skill and knowledge to fish more selectively. It increases the landed catch without increasing quotas, avoiding waste and helping stock conservation.
UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said: "Everybody wants to see an end to the disgraceful waste of huge amounts of fish having to be dumped back overboard and the UK is leading the way in efforts to tackle the problem."