A ban on fish discards is being considered by the European Commission as it looks at how to reform the Common Fisheries Policy.
By-catch discards are the most high-profile failing of the policy, which has not delivered sustainable fisheries (ENDS Report 421, pp 55-56). Reforms are due in 2013 and formal EU talks will begin once the commission publishes a white paper with its plans in the coming months.
At a 1 March meeting of member state ministers and Euro MPs to discuss a discard ban, fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki said discards were “unethical” and “not justifiable”. She said post-2013 the Common Fisheries Policy should have “sustainability written all over it. If it does not do away with discards then it will not deserve this name”.
In a commission ‘non-paper’ the idea of a ban on discards is floated. The current system of landing quotas encourages discards as fishermen are only allowed to land and sell fixed amounts of particular species, even if they have caught other fish.
The commission suggests two alternatives: a limit on fishing effort in terms of numbers of boats and time at sea, or an overall fishing limit including catch and by-catch. The latter would be more complicated to enforce.
The commission asks for views on a ban. The UK government is in favour.