Will the discards ban be enough to rebuild EU fish stocks?

The Guardian reports, 11th November 2013: “Banning the wasteful practice of discarding edible fish at sea will not be enough to save dwindling fish stocks, a group of scientists have warned.

The ending of discards is a key European Union fisheries policy, and after a hard-fought battle over the past three years with the fishing industry and among some member states, an agreement was signed to phase out the practice gradually from 2015 to 2019. The Fish Fight campaign by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the chef and Guardian food writer, was cited by the European Commission as a key factor in winning the battle.

But without strict limits on how much of each species can be caught, the ban will be ineffective, according to a study by the University of East Anglia and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture,

Researchers examined what would happen with a discards ban alone, the effects of tougher quotas and how fishing fleets could be monitored in order to ensure that they do not illegally land fish. “The discards ban is not the great victory that the public seem to think,” said Prof Alastair Grant, one of the authors of the research.

The European Union is changing the way in which fishing quotas are decided, from the old system of a “shouting match” held every December in which each member state would wrangle to gain the best deal for its fishing fleet, even if that would allow more fish to be landed than scientific advisers suggested. Instead, under the reforms agreed this year, the common fisheries policy will require quotas to be set based on what scientists have decided is the “maximum sustainable yield”.

However, in the process of the changes, more power over catches will be devolved to member states. There is a danger, according to the researchers, that they could undermine the process.

Source: The Guardian, 11th November 2013. For the full text, see http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/11/discards-ban-victory-fish-stocks


Marinet observes: Marinet has been a consultee through all the national and European CFP and EMFF reform discussions and what is crystal clear beyond argument is that what is provided and voted on is the minimum and not what is needed.

The enforcement element of the CFP is laughable. What should be a fisheries management department with real teeth is ignored by the criminal element of the industry with impunity, and EFCA (European Fisheries Control Agency) struggles for co-operation from Member States, and operates on a minuscule budget for all EU waters.

Then you come to data collection on catch levels which some countries have failed to provide. In the recent ICES report about sea bass which has no quota at present under the CFP, it was obvious that few countries provided data about the size of their catch but for the UK/France and the UK sea angler association who, combined together, took 5,200 tonnes of a recommended total catch of 6,000 tonnes. Even here France recorded its catch in the form of the total numbers of individual fish caught and the UK in tonnages. Trying to interpret data when it is recorded differently, rather than standardised; then you begin to think that the true situation is designed not to be known.

This is an industry with historic rights whose quotas are now owned by only a few large companies who have fleets of lawyers ready and able to pressurise individual governments for business as usual. That is why we get the minimum. Governments are scared of legal action against them which they have been advised they would likely lose.

The catch needs to be taken away from these companies and redistributed to line anglers, inshore fleets or those fleets that have GPS / CCTV that is accountable 24/7 who can then get 3x value for every fish caught and so need to catch less — which means that the stock can recover.
Finally the Government should deliver the coherent network of MCZsMCZ Marine Conservation Zone that it promised and should do so now to assist the CFP Reform

David Levy, Chair Marinet

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