Fishermen will be allowed to continue discarding edible fish at sea, with MPs focus on changing fishing methods rather than stopping wasteful practices.
A Governmental committee has questioned the EU plans to ban the discarding of fish by 2014. Instead a new report says the practice should be allowed to continue until 2020, and any bans should be phased in.
There has been high-profile protests against wasteful fishing practices, partially led by the Fish Fight campaign backed by TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The campaign is battling against the practice of throwing fish back into the sea because fishermen have exceeded their quota or caught fish that are not as valuable.
Last year, the EU went to make reforms in the fishing industry. Fisheries chief, Maria Damanaki, said changes needed to be made to the common fisheries policy. Part of these reforms involved phasing out fisherman discarding fish to help the long-term future of European fish stocks.
However, a new report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee says that there should be a measured approach to banning the practice.
Anne Mcintosh, the EFRA committee chair, said that they were “appalled by revelations about the levels of discarding”. She spoke about accounts they had received from fishermen who said it is “frustrating for them to have to throw back perfectly good cod into the sea”.
However, Mcintosh added that even though it is right to tackle this problem “we are concerned that a knee-jerk reaction to the public outcry will do more harm than good. The last thing that we want to see is unwanted fish in the sea becoming unwanted fish in landfill”.
The report says that more time is needed to build up an understanding of what happens to the discards. It suggested that trials should take place to see if the fish survive when discarded and how this differed from species to species.
The Fish Fight campaign, which was also a television show on Channel 4, released a statement in response which said, “Delaying a ban until 2020 means millions more tonnes of fish are going to be pointlessly wasted, a situation we simply cannot afford to allow to continue.”
The producer of the Fish Fight series, Will Anderson, said, “Most fishermen hate discarding fish, and the response to our campaign has proven that the public hate the discarding fish, and yet some politicians seem to be the ones who want this ludicrous situation to continue. It is the politicians’ responsibility to find a solution to this mess … Carrying on as we are for longer is not a solution”.
However, the EFRA report did say that the Government needs to do more to boost the demand for less popular types of fish.
Anderson said, “At the moment 50% of the fish discarded are thrown away because there is no market for it. That is why we have been encouraging the public to become more adventurous fish eaters, and retailers to promote more different kinds of fish. If we can help create a market for these fish, they won’t need to be discarded in the first place”.
Recently, the UK has seen a rise in the sale of sustainable fish, with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) reporting that there has been a 41% increase over the past year.
To find out more about sustainable fishing practices and the products available then refer to the Good Shopping Guide or Ethical Consumer. When shopping ethically, Blue & Green Tomorrow recommends using the Ethical Superstore.
Photo: bikehikedive via Flickr