EU ministers back fish dumping ban

Mackerel The decision comes after a long campaign that won big public backing

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European Union fisheries ministers have agreed to phase out the controversial practice of dumping unwanted fish.

After a tense all-night meeting, ministers said a ban on "discards" should be phased in, starting in January 2014 for certain types of fish.

It is a victory for campaigners who have demanded the end of a practice that has brought the EU into disrepute.

But activists fear that exemptions for certain countries could open loopholes to be exploited in future talks.

'Historic moment'

The UN says Europe has the world's worst record of throwing away fish. Almost a quarter of all catches go back overboard dead because they are not the fish the crews intended to catch.

The decision reached early on Wednesday morning was driven by northern European nations, including the UK.

They prevailed over mainly Mediterranean countries, which were fighting to protect the interests of their fishermen.

The ban will apply to pelagic stocks like herring and whiting from next year, and to white fish stocks from January 2016.

How a UK trial uses CCTV on fishing boats to crack down on discards

Spain, France and Portugal managed to cling on to some restricted exemptions, particularly relating to crews operating far from land in mixed fisheries where the cost of landing unwanted fish is deemed to be prohibitive.

These crews will be allowed to discard 9%, shrinking to 7%. This figure is too high for the northern nations and the European Commission, which say the public expects that in a hungry world no fish should be thrown away.

Details of how exactly the discards ban will work in practice with the quota system or its projected replacement will be debated later.

The British government, one of the campaigners for change, said it was disappointed that the ban was not absolute, but that last night’s result was an historic victory to end a "scandalous" policy.

It is one instance in which mass public pressure has clearly influenced the politicians, with almost a million people on the Online campaign site Avaaz demanding an end to discards.

UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said: “This is a historic moment in reforming the broken Common Fisheries Policy. The scandal of discards has gone on for too long.

“I am disappointed that some of the measures required to put this ban into place are no longer as ambitious as I had hoped but it’s a price I am willing to accept if it means we can get the other details right.

The technology on trial at Denmark's North Sea Centre

“The result we have achieved today is another step in the right direction and will prove to be good for both fishermen and the marine environment.”

The deal builds on a recent commitment to fish sustainably, and to allow more regional decision making. Many crucial details are still to be resolved over exactly what sustainably means, how the policy is enforced, how fishing crews are supported and how they are helped to buy gear that fishes more selectively.

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin


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  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    This whole dumping fish thing is an absolute disgrace. An instance of the EU not being fit for purpose. Millions are starving, fish stock dwindling.
    Let's keep pushing for more reform until we have a total ban on this tragic wastage.
    We need reasons, specific & good ones for why this is being allowed to continue at all. What are the problems in stopping it, why was it implemented to begin with?

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    There is no easy way to save fish stocks - silly as dumping over quota catch is, not having quotas as before will almost inevitable lead to boats "accidentally" catching too muhc/the wrong species......

    ....ban fishing in all fish breeding grounds......

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    They should ban fishing all together. With fish reproduction rates many times the original population, just a few years of banned fishing could repopulate the seas with abundant fish whereby fishing could be restarted. This gets very difficult to do when the fish population is near zero.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    There was an experiment a while back where a small stretch of UK waters were excluded from fishing. Not only did fish stocks return to strong levels but the waters surrounding did as well.

    We could implement the practise of protected areas all around the UK and have stronger sustainable fishing in the near future.

    ...but then that would go against EU fishing rules and corporate short-termism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Commercial fishing as it is practiced in the EU is unsustainable. It's just a mining operation for fishermen to take what they can before the stocks run out.Fish farming is the way forward, it's already done with salmon and trout and it could be done with other species like cod. I know there problems but putting a little bit of money into research would go a long way. Fishing has no future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    The quota system which created this situation in the first place has to be one of the worst thought-out pieces of legislation of all time - nearly as bad as the hunting ban.

    This has gone on for years, and should have been addressed years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Great news for the fish. But there is a whole eco-system that has been built up dependent upon the shower of dead fish when it reaches the bottom. The crab and starfish populations will plummet. I would like to suggest that we dump all the europhobes, including the UKIP and EDL people, in so that the innocent wildlife can continue to flourish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    This ban is long overdue. Throwing ANY dead fish back into the sea is nothing short of immoral.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    To me its chicken and egg time we need to have limits but yes its a waste that we through the catch away but at the same time if we didnt then the system would be open to abuse with catches being landed under the "Well you cannot expect me to throw it away do you " Also because of the current economical climate there will be more restrictions that get lifted

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    15. Happy Happy Joy Joy
    Mankind is its' own worst enemy. We are overfishing the seas and polluting the air we breath and the water we drink.

    I agree we're like a parasite or a cancer sucking the life out of earth and our numbers are growing making it worse

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    It's disgusting how people think of fish, referring to populations of living organisms as 'stocks'. Can you imagine the outrage if hunters killed everything in a 10 acre radius and then only took the few bits they were after? I understand fisherman need to make a living but dumping dead fish you didn't intend to catch is a disgraceful waste of life and needs to be banned completely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    This subject makes me so angry my spleen explodes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    This sort of agreement is why we need to get out of the EU. Exceptions for those who don't want to obey are put into the deal, it will be phased in over a long time, it will be almost impossible to monitor and enforce. If politicians want us to stay in the EU they need to agree sensible deals. The EU has to go!

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I wish they'd ban bottom trawling as well, the discard policy is a scandal but far more destructive and damaging to all fish stocks is bottom trawling. It's the marine equivalent of setting the forests on fire to catch the venison. UK used to be one of the worst for discards, plenty of good eating fish discarded because UK only eats cod.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I've lived in a couple of fishing port towns, and it was pretty sickening to see a pile of fish dumped into the harbour, just because a boat has reached its quota on a particular type of fish...they still go out to try and catch others so they can make a living on the fish they are still allowed to catch and the result is that probably millions of fish have simply been dumped overt the side.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Any improvement on the current system has got to be a good thing. I really makes sense to dump as little dead fish back into any seas as possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Just ask any scuba diver and they would tell you all the fish disappeared from UK waters around 2 decades ago.
    Given time (and a fishing ban) I’m certain they will recover.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    This is one place where the EU could do some good. All fishing should come under the control of a single european body. No private fishing should be allowed. Current fishing fleets would be given work on a contract basis. No discards! The fish remain the property of the fishing body who sell them onto the market. All profits go on marine conservation.That way we get to save the fishing industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Better late than never, I suppose, to stop doing something that never should have been allowed to happen in the first place. Just a shame some short-sighted idiots have managed to successfully negotiate being able to carry on throwing good food away and shame on those idiots in power to allow it to continue. You'll go down in history as almost feeding the hungry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Should not be allowed to catch it if its not needed! What effect does this have on fish stocks?


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