SCOTLAND, UK - Scotland's Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead welcomed the progress towards implementing a ban on discarding dead fish in Europe, in a speech at the Fishing Expo in Aberdeen.
The regulations, due to come into force in January 2016, could ultimately prevent over 25,000 tonnes of dead fish being thrown back into the sea every year, which is equivalent to 22 per cent of the Scottish catch, Mr Lochhead said.
Fish discards are a problem in nations across Europe and even though Scotland has made more progress than most, Scottish discards are still enough to fill over 11 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
These figures come as the regional groups are set to recommend a phased approach to the discard ban in both the North Sea and the North West Waters, which Mr Lochhead welcomed as a sensible and measured position.
Mr Lochhead outlined in his speech how joint regional plans for the new regime are progressing.
He said: "No-one wants to see dead fish being thrown back into the sea - least of all our fishermen. It's also a waste of food that goes against the grain of what the public want.
"With just over seven months to go until the discard ban covers some of our most popular fish including cod, haddock and monkfish, the industry is entering its biggest period of change in a generation.
"Our fleet has already made good progress to reduce the level of discarded fish in Scotland. However, we need to do more to end the waste caused by dead fish being thrown back into the sea.
"We are working hard in Europe on behalf of fishermen to ensure the ban is implemented in a pragmatic, proportionate and phased way. If managed sensibly the landing obligation will be good for Scotland and help the conservation of fish stocks that offer up dependable and sustainable catches for fishermen.
"I am pleased the regional groups are set to recommend a phased approach in both the North Sea and the North West Waters. This is a sensible and measured position which is good for the Scottish fleet.
"It shows the benefits of the discard planning process being spearheaded by Member States working in their regions in close consultation with industry and others through the advisory councils.
"I'm particularly pleased that Scotland has a place at the regional table in the North Sea and the North West Waters. It is exactly why I fought so vigorously for regional decision-making, so that these crucial reforms could be shaped and delivered at regional level in ways which are tailored to different local circumstances and which make sense to local fishermen.
"However, I don’t underestimate the challenges that the discard ban brings, particularly with the complexities of a fleet covering around 30 different species.
"It is important that, as well as fishermen adapting, fisheries managers also adapt.
"New management tools and thinking are required, for example around stock distribution and mixed fishery plans."
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