Next Monday, March 19 2012, fisheries ministers from the 27 EU Member States will gather in Brussels to discuss the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and in particular the discard ban proposed by the European Commission.
Because discarding unwanted catches poses both ethical and environmental problems, Oceana strongly supports a ban that includes the obligation to land all catches accompanied by technical measures to reduce and eliminate unwanted catches, as the best way to stop this waste of resources.
Despite years of policies aimed at improving the selectivity of fishing techniques in Europe, discards still represent 13% of European catches, amounting to 1, 3 million tonnes thrown overboard dead or dying each year, says Oceana.
Yet, the discard ban currently proposed by the Commission would only apply to a limited number of commercially exploited species (around 5%). Oceana urges Member States to support a general ban on discards for all commercial species, implemented within a specific and gradual timeframe so as to allow the fishing fleet to adapt.
"This wasteful and shameful practice hampers the health of fish stocks, threatens the balance of ecosystems and jeopardizes the future of European fisheries," stated Ricardo Aguilar, scientific director at Oceana Europe. "An obligation to land all catches would create a strong enough incentive to change practices and favor more selective fishing techniques."
However, technical measures designed to improve selectivity, and a proper plan on what to do with the additional catch must accompany any such landing obligation and the Commission’s current recommendations on how to commercialize unwanted fish are unacceptable. Oceana recommends that the proceeds from the sale of unwanted catches be reverted to a fund managed by the fisheries authorities of Member States, to be used to provide indirect incentives to the fishing sector not to discard, such covering the costs of scientific advice to improve the quality of stock assessments, supporting research and development for more selective gears, as well as contributing to the costs of control and enforcement activities.
“Improperly commercializing unwanted catches, turning edible fish into fish meal and fish oil for non-food uses, or opening a market for undersized illegal fish can raise as many ethical problems as discarding,” added Javier Lopez, marine scientist of Oceana. “Unwanted catches cannot simply be landed in ports without accompanying measures to improve selectivity – which is the main priority in addressing the root of the problem.”
The European Commission proposal to reform the Common Fisheries Policy is currently being discussed by Member States and by the European Parliament and the adoption of the final text is foreseen for 2013.
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