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EU may change rule requiring fish to be thrown back into sea

Fishermen are currently supposed to throw back any fish over strict quotas, even though they are perfectly edible.

Image: PA Images/John Giles

THE EU’s FISHERIES chief has proposed scrapping a rule that requires fishermen to throw good fish back into the sea after they exceed their catch quotas. The rule is designed to promote sustainable fishing.

EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said today that discarding fish is the biggest management problem facing the industry since 50 per cent of whitefish and up to 70 percent of flatfish are thrown overboard dead, even though they are edible.

Once strict quotas have been filled, certain fish can no longer be landed in port for sale and thus are thrown overboard again.

Ending the quota-discard rule would require a fundamental reassessment of EU fisheries policy.

Brendan Smith, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, said that he welcomed the EU’s concern about “discards”. He said that the issue had been a priority in Ireland’s submission on the review of the Common Fisheries Policy. He said:

A blanket ban on discards in all fisheries may well be counterproductive as it would not have industry support, it would be difficult to implement and enforce. As a result, a blanket discards ban would not work.

The wasteful practice of discarding perfectly good fish has been the focus of a campaign by TV chef Hugh Fearnley Whitingstall, among others. He recently filmed a documentary called Hugh’s Fish Fight for Channel 4 which championed more sustainable fishing practices. The website dedicated to the campaign claims that “around half of the fish caught by fishermen in the North Sea are unnecessarily thrown back into the ocean dead”.

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In this clip, he joined fishermen in Hastings as they discarded their fish close to the shore so that local residents could gather them and prevent the fish going to waste:

-additional reporting by AP

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