THE Government claims it has taken a major step forward in banning the needless discarding of dead fish in our waters but Hastings fishermen say it makes no sense.
A meeting held in Luxembourg earlier this week was a long-awaited opportunity for EU Fisheries Ministers to agree reforms to end ineffective micro-management from Brussels and address public outrage over discarding.
Following 24 hours of tense negotiations, the EU council agreed that there should be a ban on discards.
The policy of having to throw fish, many dead, back into the water has long been a bone of contention for Hastings fishermen and fishing communities around the country.
But Paul Joy, chairman of Hastings Fisherman’s Protection Society, said he had no idea how it would work.
“It makes no sense at all,” he said. “At the moment we are only allowed to bring ashore about 1.4kg of cod a day.
“So if our discarding fish is banned then how are we supposed to land all these fish which will take us over our quotas?
“Can DEFRA explain that one to us because the only way a discard ban would work is if quotas ar increased.
“We have had discards since 2006 and it has not worked at all. Thankfully I’ve managed to keep going collecting cuttlefish and selling them abroad to Spain and Portugal.”
Provisional dates published by the Council would see a ban on discards of such as Mackerel and Herring by January 2014 and a ban on discards in ‘Whitefish’ fisheries, which is Cod, Haddock, Plaice and Sole on a phased basis starting on 1 January 2015 and fully in place by 1 January 2018. Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye, said: “I welcome this clear commitment to ending discards.
“This is a positive step forward and the beginning of change for the fishing industry in Europe.
“This is excellent news for local fishermen as it will allow more decisions to be made locally and will move power away from Brussels.”
Leading negotiations for the UK, Richard Benyon, Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, said: “After years of pressing to eliminate discards it was always my aim to get the Council to agree to end this wasteful practice as soon as possible.
“While I am disappointed that the Council has not agreed the firm dates that I was seeking, a commitment to eliminating discards is a step in the right direction.
“I came to Luxembourg to achieve fundamental reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, to achieve healthy fish stocks, a prosperous fishing industry and a healthy marine environment – there is still a lot more work that needs to be done but I believe the agreement we have reached is an important step on the way to achieving that. For far too long overly detailed decisions have been taken from Brussels and fishermen throughout Europe have been micro-managed – the agreement we reached will hopefully see some of that power return back to Member States, working with their fishermen.”