Euro MPs vote to weaken the ban on discarding fish

12th December 2014

A year ago our politicians voted to change how Europe fishes for food. One year on, MEPs are already breaking their pledge to safeguard our fish stocks.

It was December 10, 2013.

880,000 people had jumped on board the FishFight campaign to demand new rules for Europe’s fishing fleets. And they won – fair and square.

People across Europe had been incensed by the wasteful throwing of dead fish overboard – a practice known as discarding. It was a symbol of how badly Europe needed to reform fishing policy and practice.   But just one year on, and this huge win for our seas is in danger.

Weakening the reforms

Yesterday, Euro MPs were due to end their negotiations on banning discarding.

These plans could benefit both fisheries and the marine ecosystems which support them. But last week Euro MPs voted to weaken the ban on discarding.

Richard Corbett is an MEP for Yorkshire & Humber. He said fellow MEPs on the Fisheries Committee had “unleased an arsenal of amendments aimed at delaying and weakening the reform’s implementation”.

The MEPs’ vote means that fishing crews don’t need to report on everything they catch. The vote has basically thrown proper monitoring legislation overboard.

Vessels will only have to report when their catch reaches 50 kilograms. Factor in the entire fishing fleet, and that’s a huge amount of fish going unmonitored.

Holding back science

Lack of proper fishing data will limit the work of scientists. They need accurate data to estimate the levels of fish in the sea. It’s vital for them to determine sustainable fishing quotas – to prevent overfishing.

Fully documented fisheries are essential (Articles 15.1 and 15.5 c ii) – according to the reforms that those 880,000 people demanded and won. The same reforms that, one year on, MEPs have effectively capsized.

The MEPs also voted to delay when fishing crews must comply with the rules.

Will crews that receive public money to support their fishing have to return this money if they fail to comply?

The first phase of this new strategy starts on New Year’s Day.

It covers those fishing crews looking to catch herring, mackerel and other fish that inhabit the open seas.  Next year, MEPs will discuss how the ban on discarding should apply to the remaining fishing crews.

This gives them “12 months to get it right” said Ian Duncan, the Conservative MEP for Scotland.

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This blog was written by Emily Williams, 11th December 2014.