A ban on dumping fish is just the start - and public pressure must be kept up

We should move to catching only those fish needed in the first place

Share
Related Topics

Discards, it’s a small word but it’s a big problem: the catching, killing and throwing away of perfectly good fish. It’s tossed over the side because it is too small, not profitable, or the wrong species. It’s an environmental crime, with estimates that as much as every second cod or haddock caught in the North Sea is chucked away, and with some fishing practices throwing away as much as 80 per cent of what is caught in their nets. At a time of economic austerity, such wanton waste is intolerable. With the majority of Europe’s fisheries currently classed as overfished, it’s also clearly not a good use of precious resources, or a sensible long-term strategy.

The public agree. Thanks largely to the campaigning efforts of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s FishFight, dumping fish is an issue that has hit the headlines, become a real popular concern and turned into one of the central themes of the long, tortuous process of reforming Europe’s fishing laws. The public think chucking away good fish is wrong and should stop, and accordingly Europe’s Parliamentarians voted overwhelmingly in support of banning discards earlier this month.

So it’s good news then that in the early hours of yesterday morning our Fisheries Ministers followed suit, after an all-night session, by agreeing to back a Europe-wide discard ban. But their agreement needs to be understood in context.

What ministers agreed was a phased-in ban to end discards. The idea is that this is brought about in stages, Pelagic fisheries first (that’s things like mackerel & herring), North Sea fisheries next, and Mediterranean fisheries last. It would start from next year, but still allow a small percentage of ‘unwanted’ fish to be caught and thrown back. Ministers agreed that up to 9% of unwanted fish could be caught and landed.

That’s a compromise, and one that in reality equates to quite a few hundred tonnes of fish. Backers of a ban, like UK fisheries minister Richard Benyon, claim compromise was necessary to avoid countries like Spain, France and Portugal looking to create other loopholes and exemptions.

But that’s nowhere near the end of it. To get agreement on the discard ban (and other essential elements of reform) between 27 EU Member States we now have to endure a few months of complex negotiations. The European Parliament, European Commission, conservation and Environmental groups, and countries like the UK will be pushing for a tighter ban. At the same time vested interests will be trying wherever possible to water it down.

That’s why it’s so important that this is so clearly an issue of public expectation. Parliamentarians and Ministers ultimately represent you, the voter and consumer. They will be under pressure to delay, dilute and derogate as they are lobbied by industrial fishing interests. They need us to remind them to stand firm and deliver an end to discards. It’s what we expect, and it’s what our oceans need.

We are already seeing great initiatives to reduce bycatch of unwanted fish, and make fishing more selective. Those are measures we all need to support. We have to start rewarding and supporting those who fish better, and bring most benefit to coastal communities.

A discard ban could be viewed as a blunt tool, but ultimately it’s about us changing what happens at sea.  It’s not simply about stopping chucking away perfectly good fish; it’s about not catching what we shouldn’t in the first place.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before