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Movement on Discards at Fisheries Meeting

20 March 2012

EU - Yesterday was the first day of the Agriculture and Fisheries meeting in Brussels. The council backed the commissions proposal against the removal of shark fins on board vessels and discussed the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform and the discard ban.

The ministers held a public debate on a proposal for the regulation on the CFP, on a proposal on a common organisation of markets in fisheries and aquaculture products and on the European maritime and fisheries fund (EMFF) within the framework of the CFP reform package.

Still in on fishery issues, ministers also adopted council conclusions on the external dimension of the CFP.

Finally, the council was briefed on mackerel stocks in the North East Atlantic.

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead has welcomed the position set out by Commissioner Maria Damanaki, particularly her recognition that the EU need to incentivise anti-discard measures and tackle the problem on a fishery-by-fishery basis.

Mr Lochhead said: "The madness of fish discards – where a perfectly good food source is thrown dead overboard – was for decades Europe’s secret shame. It is therefore significant that the scandal is now centre stage, with the fishermen and the public demanding action.

"I'm pleased that Commissioner Damanaki has set out a sensible way ahead, which I hope leads to the problem finally being addressed, with effective and enforceable measures brought forward that we can sign up to by the summer.

"It's absurd that EU fishermen have to discard up to a million tonnes of fish each and every year, otherwise they are deemed law breakers under the perverse Common Fisheries Policy. I welcome that the Commissioner has recognised this problem with the CFP, and requested Member States highlight those EU regulations that are causing discards – so they can be changed.

"I look forward to the Commissioner following up her words with firm action. We need a strict timetable for the road-map towards discard-free fisheries across the EU, with radical reforms to the CFP.

"The factors resulting in discarding are complex and a fishery-by-fishery approach is the right one. It’s critical that we work closely with our fishermen to find solutions and put in places incentives to stop discarding, just as Scotland has been doing successfully in recent years."

Swedish Rural Minister, Eskil Erlandsson, who attended the meeting discussed Sweden's view on disccards stating: "It is a colossal waste of resources to discard as most do not survive. We are going to land all fish caught and make sure it is used in a sensible way. We must also introduce fishing gear and practices that enable us to reduce bycatch."

"Sweden, Norway and Denmark are pressing the issue of prohibition of discards and has gone ahead of the other member countries by introducing the ban on discards in the Skagerrak, which is managed jointly by the states. The ban comes into force on 1 January 2013," he said.

Chairing the meeting, Mette Gjerskov, Denmark's Food, Agriculture and Fisheries minister said: “A ban on discard is essential for ensuring a sustainable fisheries reform. The amount of discards is provoking to many citizens and NGO’s, and the Danish Presidency supports the efforts of the Commission to reach a ban on discard. Today we have had fruitful discussions on the Commission’s proposal. I am glad that there is a consensus to proceed with the proposal.”

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