UK trawlers are ignoring the ban on the discarding of fish at sea

The Guardian reports, 8th February 2019: Public backing for a ban on discarding edible fish at sea has been thwarted by the reluctance of the fishing industry and the government to put an end to the wasteful practice, the House of Lords has found.

Discards were officially banned in January, after a five-year phase-in period, but the practice appears to have continued, with the government failing to take action, said a Lords EU energy and environment subcommittee report.

Lord Krebs, a committee member, told the Guardian: “Everyone thinks [the discard ban] is a great idea, and a part of sustainable fishing. But we found fishermen were not aware of it or not implementing it, the enforcement bodies were not enforcing, and the solutions not being used.”

About 1.7m tonnes of fish are discarded across the EU every year, because fleets catch fish for which they do not have a quota, or have already exceeded their quota, or because they throw back fish judged to be of low commercial value. The new “landing obligation” under the EU common fisheries policy means fleets must bring ashore all they catch, whether it is commercially valuable or not.

But this can mean fishermen run out of key species quickly. The Lords heard evidence that some vessels could run out of their annual quota as soon as February, while George Eustice, minister for agriculture, fisheries and food, admitted some could run out by June.

The evidence strongly suggested fishermen would not adhere to the new rules, said Krebs. “Although the landing obligation has applied to a number of UK fish stocks since 2015, we heard no evidence that fishers have been complying with it, or that any serious attempts have been made to enforce it,” he said.

The Lords recommend measures such as more selective fishing gear, better technology to track in real-time where shoalsshoal A sandbank or sandbar that makes the water shallow of particular species are to prevent vessels pursuing the wrong fish, and remote electronic monitoring of vessels, by CCTV and other means, to show whether they have complied with the rules. There should also be easier methods for fishers to swap quota among themselves.

Krebs said the UK government was unwilling to enforce the rules strictly when other member states appeared not to be doing so, as that could put British fishermen at a disadvantage.

He suggested a compromise by which the large vessels that take 94% of the UK’s total catch should be made to submit to remote monitoring, as they were in a better position to afford the equipment, while the smaller boats which make up more of the fleet but take only 6% of fish could be allowed more time to comply.


Source: The Guardian, 8th February 2019. For the full story, see


Marinet observes: Whilst it is lamentable that another aspect of EU CFP law is being widely breached by all parties (fishermen and government), this is neither the only CFP law that is being breached at the present time nor is the law itself entirely sensible.

EU Member Countries continue to set fishing quotas beyond the recommended scientific limits and in breach of the CFP Reform Regulation 2014 because fishermen say the quotas are too strict and that they make their activity uneconomic, whilst EU Member Countries continue to refuse to establish sound fishing policies which are required by law under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive by next year, 2020, because they do not want to face the facts.

Of course, the real problem is not actually discards. It is a European fleet, supported by EU fishing subsidies, which is far too large. The result is that too many vessels are chasing too few fish, so “quotas” have to be established to prevent the level of over-fishing spiralling totally out of control.

In this strange Alice in Wonderland World quotas thus come to be seen as the driving force behind over-fishing and declining fish stocks due to discarding, and thus a need for a discard ban. Wrong. The real cause is that the EU fleet is too large.

If the fleet was tailored to the size of fish stocks, i.e. greatly reduced in size (which could be achieved by eliminating subsidies because most vessels without subsidies are uneconomic) then there would be no need for quotas and, if there were no need for quotas, then there would be no need for a discard ban and discarding would, in practical terms, become a relic of the past.

If reform of this nature — real CFP Reform — were undertaken then fish stocks could be rebuilt in size (by preventing trawlers trawling spawning sites as they currently do) and installing a host of real conservation measures such as larger mesh sizes in nets so allowing older fish (the most fecund in breeding terms and the most valuable economically) to reappear in stocks, thus ensuring that the legal requirements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive were respected.

At the moment EU seas are in a state of anarchy with regard to the law. Neither governments nor fishermen are obeying the law because so many aspects of the law have been ill-conceived and are unworkable.

Marinet argued for the restriction in the size of the fleet and the conservation reforms set out here in 2014 (time of CFP Reform) but we were ignored. Alas, our suggestions are still being ignored and the state of the fisheries continues to decline whilst the trend towards lawlessness grows.

When are wiser heads eventually going to prevail? Is it only when the whole system collapses and there is no longer anything left to rescue?

That’s what happened in Newfoundland, remember.


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