Fisheries:

North Sea fisheries madness

Outcry grows at 'ridiculous' waste of fishing catch

North Sea fishermen are throwing away up to half of all the fish they catch every year in what campaigners say is a chronic waste of food.

Almost a million dead and dying fish are discarded at sea each year, according to a campaign calling for Europe's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to be comprehensively reformed. Most are tossed overboard because they are too small, of the wrong species or will take fishing boats over their quotas, making it illegal to land them.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the food campaigner and celebrity chef, was so appalled at learning of the level of discards, describing it as an "insane waste", that he has launched a campaign to get the practice banned.

Within two days of it being launched, more than 24,000 people signed up to Fearnley-Whittingstall's Fish Fight project and their names will be added to a letter to Maria Damanaki, the European Fisheries Commissioner, demanding the end of discards.

The chef launched his campaign to put pressure on the European Union to make the elimination of discards a "primary objective" when ministers sit down to reform the CFP. He said discards were "an unavoidable consequence of the Common Fisheries Policy and the quota system", adding: "The fish are being thrown away because to land them would be illegal."

The quantity of discards was highlighted as part of research for a television series Fearnley-Whittingstall is presenting, Hugh's Fish Fight, which is scheduled to be broadcast on Channel 4 early in the new year.

There are no precise figures on the levels of discards because they usually go unrecorded by fishermen, but it is generally accepted among experts that about a quarter of the tonnage taken in the North Sea is thrown back.

Professor Callum Roberts, of the University of York and a world authorities on fish stocks, said the claim that half of all fish caught in the North Sea are discarded is likely to be accurate. "It could even be more."

One species for which there are firm estimates of the number of fish, rather than the weight, is cod. Scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas calculated that more than 60 per cent are discarded in the North Sea, the figure rising to more than 90 per cent for cod aged less than a year.

Ministers and officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) regard the CFP as "broken" and are anxious to reform it. Richard Benyon, the Fisheries minister, said: "The throwing back of dead fish into the sea is one of the biggest failures of the CFP. Both Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and I are pushing for the same thing. I am working to end this disgraceful practice that is forced on the fishing industry through a CFP that is clearly no longer fit for purpose."

Environmental groups have long called for the fishing industry to adopt equipment and practices that can substantially reduce bycatch – the unintended part of the catch such as juvenile cod when haddock are the target. Larger net mesh sizes is one measure that can save juvenile fish. Charles Clover, of the sustainable fishing organisation Fish2Fork, said: "It is splendid that an audience-puller like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is getting stuck in to the problem of discards as it means that the public is about to find out a lot more about how their fish is produced – and a lot of what happens isn't pretty. It is ridiculous that we cannot prioritise more selective forms of fishing and stop throwing away hundreds of thousands of tonnes of perfectly good fish, let alone other creatures, every year. In America selective trawl gear and even hook fishing is much more widespread."

A government-backed initiative in the South-west, Project 50%, was recently praised by Ms Damanaki for halving the discard level in flat fish areas by using a new type of fishing gear on beam trawlers. Similarly in Scotland, the voluntary Conservation Credit Scheme has seen the bycatch rate plummet in a North Sea haddock fishery among species such as cod and whiting after new equipment and measures such as temporary localised fishing bans and CCTV on boats to monitor catches were adopted.

Incentives for fishermen are likely to become a common means of getting them to cut discard rates. In Denmark some fishermen have been given 30 per cent bigger quotas for demonstrating that their bycatch and discard rates have been slashed.

Pressure for reform of the CFP has been mounting and Ms Damanaki is developing proposals that she hopes will introduce an "intelligent stock management system for the 21st century" by 2013. The commissioner said yesterday: "I'm preparing a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and the discards will get special attention. They have to be, wherever possible, avoided."

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone