EU bans "scandalous" fish discards

27th February 2013

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Dead fish will no longer be allowed to be dumped back into the sea from European fishing vessels under agreed reforms to the EU's common fisheries policy

Representatives from European governments have agreed to ban the discarding of unwanted dead fish that result in one-quarter of catches being thrown overboard and wasted.

Reforms to the CFP phase in bans on discarding edible fish between 2014 and 2019. The first ban will prevent stocks of pelagic fish, such as herring and whiting, being discarded from January 2014. A ban on discarding white fish, such as cod and haddock, will begin in January 2016.

The outcome of the negotiations has been hailed as a victory in the UK, which led discussions on a ban.

“This is a historic moment in reforming the broken common fisheries policy. The scandal of discards has gone on for too long,” said UK fisheries minister Richard Benyon, who helped to broker the reforms.

Scotland’s fisheries minister Richard Lochhead said the agreement would end a “30-year scandal”.

“No longer will European fishermen be dumping millions of tonnes of fish overboard, which is a waste of a valuable food resource to the detriment of our stocks and the industry,” he said.

“It has been a long hard road to achieve agreement. And the negotiation was dominated by attempts of some nations to exempt certain stocks by adding in specific loopholes. We all need work together to ensure smooth implementation.”

Meanwhile, Benyon acknowledged that compromises had been necessary to ensure that the dumping of dead fish is outlawed in many cases.

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

“The final package is another step in the right direction and will prove to be good for both the fishing industry and the marine environment.”

EU figures reveal that three out of four European fish stocks are currently overfished: 82% of Mediterranean stocks and 63% of Atlantic stocks.

The reforms to the CFP will now go before the European parliament for approval.

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