Lords^ discard warning
Article Date: 2013-07-30
LORDS WARN OF RISK THAT DISCARDS AT SEA BECOME DISCARDS ON LAND UNLESS BAN PROPERLY IMPLEMENTED
The House of Lords EU Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Energy have written to Environment Minister Richard Benyon and the European Commission to warn that unless the EU fish discard ban is implemented effectively there is a risk that discards at sea will simply become discards on land. There is a particular risk that fish will have to be landed which cannot be sold and which might otherwise have survived if returned to the water.
The Committee set out a number of areas where further work is required to ensure the discards ban is effectively implemented. These include:
• Sufficient financial resources for local decision making – The discard ban will rely on a move away from centralised EU decision making to a system of rules that are set specifically for each sea area but, the Committee point out, this will require more attention to funding arrangements if it is to work
• Improving links between marine science research and industry – The Committee also call for better links between academic researchers and the fishing industry to boost research in areas such as identification of species that are likely to survive if returned to the sea after being caught. The Committee identify commercial fishing vessels as the best research vessels and ask the Government to consider the possibility of a levy on the fishing industry which can then be used to provide funding for commercial vessels involved in research. The Committee also call on the Government to guarantee public funding beyond March 2014 to support collaborative work between scientists and fishermen.
• Focus on compliance with the ban rather than heavy handed enforcement – The Committee state that engagement with industry on management measures and objectives should lead to effective compliance. Enforcement would remain necessary, though, and can be assisted through the use of incentives, such as additional quota, to have CCTV cameras on board a sample of vessels.
• Public consumption of a wider variety of species The Committee call on the Government and Commission to identify what action they can take to promote consumption of a wider variety of species, including through the procurement of food for primary school children. Supermarkets, say the Committee, should avoid short term promotion campaigns and adopt longer term strategies.
Commenting Baroness Scott, Chair of the Committee said:
“While we welcome the move to implement a discard ban in the EU it will be pointless if it simply moves wastage from sea to land. To ensure that doesn’t happen, the policy must be implemented properly and the fishing industry must be fully engaged in developing the new rules that are required for its implementation.
“There is evidence that some species of fish stand a good chance of surviving if returned to the sea after being caught. We need further research in this area to ensure the discard ban isn’t counterproductive to improving fish stocks. That research must involve the fishing industry so it produces useful new information and doesn’t become an academic exercise.
“It is important that all existing rules and regulations are reviewed to ensure that they are compatible with the discard ban. These include rules on the amount of time that vessels spend at sea. Excessive restrictions like that will restrict the flexibility for vessels to move to other fishing grounds if they find, for example, that they are catching too many young fish.
“The fishing industry is of vital importance to the UK and in some areas is a major employer. We were pleased to hear that the fishing industry are strong supporters of the ban and recognise that compliance with it is good for their futures and for the sustainability of the industry. Clearly, though, implementation of the discard ban must take into account the reality of fishing businesses and how they work. We expect that the Minister and the European Commission will take our concerns into account and we look forward to receiving their response.”