Major u-turn in common fisheries policy is a ‘wake up to reality’ say Conservatives

The grotesque policy of forcing fisherman to throw caught fish overboard in order to comply with quotas has itself gone overboard

Brussels 28 March — Today the European Commission admitted that the much reviled policy of ‘discarding’ caught fish has been a disaster. Conservative pressure paid off as Fisheries Commissioner, Joe Borg, let fishermen off the hook. No longer will they be forced to measure net mesh sizes, fix acoustic devices on nets or create escape panels in them. Borg admitted that ‘the application of these measures is too complicated to apply and control’. It has also led to over 1 million tonnes of healthy fish (25% of all fish caught in the EU) being discarded every year.

Discarding is the practice of dumping overboard unwanted fish or other marine organisms which have been caught unintentionally. Many UK fishermen in the whitefish fleet, which targets cod, haddock, prawns etc., admit that discards routinely account for nearer 50-75% of their catches. Even worse, in the Atlantic deep water fishery, where fishermen target exotic species like Orange Roughy and Roundnose Grenadier, discards of the multitude of slow-growing, late maturing fish which live in almost total darkness at enormous depths and are caught alongside the targeted species, can amount to over 90% of the catch. This is horrendously wasteful and environmentally unsustainable.

Sir Robert Atkins MEP, Conservative Deputy Leader in the European Parliament, welcomed the u-turn but added a note of caution: “Many fishermen will doubt that Fisheries Commissioner Borg can really put an end to the disgraceful practice of dumping perfectly healthy fish back into the sea because they doubt the wisdom of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Little wonder. If a fisherman attempts to land an undersize or out of quota fish, he will be prosecuted and end up with a criminal conviction and a hefty fine. Rather than face criminal charges, our fishermen have no alternative other than to dump such fish over the side. Much of this problem can be traced to the way in which we operate our current system of fisheries management under the CFP.

“In the eyes of the public, the wasteful discarding of one million tonnes of healthy fish each year is the unacceptable face of Europe’s fisheries policy. The clamour for reform has been constant, and at last their demands are about to be answered”.

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