Fishing discards practice thrown overboard by EU
EU makes compromise agreement to phase-in ban on discards from 2014, but critics say that will be too late for some species
13 June 2012Who's that young fellow me lad?
The wasteful practice of throwing away healthy and edible fish at sea will be ended in Europe, for the first time in four decades, in a partial victory for environmental campaigners who have viewed a discards ban as the key step to preserving fish stocks.
But – crucially – the date when such a ban will come into force is still in question, raising fears that it may be implemented too late to save some species.
More than 1m tonnes of healthy fish are annually thrown back dead into the sea by fishermen – due to EU rules, or in order to maximise their profits – and a ban on discarding fish such as mackerel and herring is likely from 2014. However for other very pressurised species such as cod, haddock, plaice and sole, the ban could be phased in from 2015, and not be fully in force until 2018. That, experts say, may be too late to be effective.
Mette Gjerskov, the fisheries minister for Denmark, the current holder of the revolving EU presidency, said: "Today the [EU] Council for the first time stated that a discard ban will be a reality."
Maria Damanaki, the EU fisheries chief, said: "It was a compromise, but a step in the right direction, a step forward, [and] workable."
Although her proposals for comprehensive reform of the common fisheries policy – the biggest overhaul of the longstanding policy since it was formed – have not been implemented as Damanaki wanted, she vowed to fight on, saying the focus would switch to the European Parliament, which will now discuss the council's decisions and could try to strengthen the proposals.
Richard Benyon, the UK fisheries minister, who stayed firmly in favour of a discards ban but faced a revolt from the Scottish devolved administration over its timing, said: "After years of pressing to eliminate discards it was always my aim to get the council to agree to end this wasteful practice as soon as possible. While I am disappointed that the council has not agreed the firm dates that I was seeking, a commitment to ending discards is a step in the right direction."
The key question is now over when a discards ban for key species is implemented. Conservationists warned that unnecessarily prolonging the practice could be the death knell for many of the EU's dwindling fish stocks.
The compromise agreement came after a marathon negotiation session in Luxembourg, at which EU fisheries ministers warred over whether to ban discards, when to do so, and how to set a "maximum sustainable yield", by which fisheries would be managed in accordance with scientific advice over how much fishing they could bear.
After more than 18 hours of negotiations, which stretched on to dawn on Wednesday morning in Luxembourg, the final decision was hailed by the Danish presidents of the European Union as "a very important step in the direction of a radical new fisheries policy – a sustainable fisheries policy".
Gjerskov emphasised the battle that had to be fought to get this far: "This was not given, six months ago [that the EU would opt for a ban on discards]." Several member states, including France, had campaigned vociferously against banning discards, because the current system allows fishermen to make up their quota by selecting only the highest value species and the best specimens, throwing away the rest, and thus maximising their profits but destroying large numbers of healthy and edible fish. more
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Fishing Discard Policy To End
Good, not before time.