Government attacks EU fishing rules
The Government has launched a new attack on controversial EU fishing rules which force fishermen to throw millions of dead fish back into the sea.
Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, attending a special EU summit to tackle the problem, 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.
"We need a new and sustainable Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which protects our seas and manages vulnerable fish stocks better while allowing our fishermen to make a living and plan for the future."
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.
UK trials are already going on with a new 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.
Mr Benyon was at fisheries talks called by the European Commission, which has acknowledged that a system encouraging discards cannot continue.
But Mr Benyon's Scottish counterpart Richard Lochhead was absent - because EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki insisted that only one minister per EU member state could attend.
Mr Lochhead commented: "Across Europe, Scotland is recognised as being at the fore of innovative ways to address the nonsensical practice of discarding marketable fish back in the sea, dead.
"Commissioner Damanaki has expressed her desire to work closely with Scotland on the issue, therefore it is very disappointing that my request to take part in a key EU meeting on discards has been declined."