Discard Ban Opposition Unseen, General Support from European States20 March 2012
ANALYSIS - This week, European members of parliament are meeting in Brussels to discuss the future of discards. Yesterday, although there was no declaration made, discards were at the centre of the discussion during the Council meeting, writes Charlotte Johnston, TheFishSite editor.
Discards represent 13 per cent of European catches, amounting to 1.3 million tonnes thrown overboard a year.
What EU Commission Proposes
Last year, the European Commission, with the support and backing of EU Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Maria Damanaki, proposed a ban on discards.
The European Commission proposes a gradual approach in three steps: pelagic species in 2014 (including in the Mediterranean), most valuable demersal species (cod, hake and sole) in 2015, and other species in 2016. The discard ban would cover the listed species, regardless of whether they are managed with quota or effort.
What Member States Want
Last week there were reports in the press that some member states, including France and Spain would attempt to block the discard ban in Council. However this did not happen.
Instead, at yesterday's meeting the general consensus seemed to be that if there is to be a discard ban, it should to be introduced on a fishery by fishery basis, as opposed to species basis.
Member states called for a gradual and regional approach that is adapted to the specific context of each fishery.
Several ministers called for more studies on the reasons for discarding, region by region, before prescribing any measures against discards.
The French minister, Bruno Le Maire, said that discards should be tackled in the long term management plans and not in the basic regulation. However, Commissioner Damanaki said that many management plans are stalled between the Council and European Parliament, so this would not be a viable solution.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a UK chef who has made the issue of discards a public matter, encouraged the public to use social media, including facebook and twitter, to support the discard ban. He said that Commissioner Damanaki led from the front and seemed to be building consensus among the Ministers.
The European Commission proposal to reform the Common Fisheries Policy is currently being discussed by Member States and by the European Parliament and the adoption of the final text is foreseen for 2013.