Reaction pours in to EU discards ban


Steven Hedlund

Published on
June 12, 2012

Reaction is pouring in to news that European fisheries ministers have agreed to enact a series of bans that will effectively prohibit the practice of discarding fish at sea. The decision came during a tense European Council meeting in Luxembourg that began on Tuesday and ran into the early hours of Wednesday.

The marathon 18-hour negotiation session was a long-awaited opportunity for EU fisheries ministers to debate the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), including the discard issue and whether a ban should be introduced, and, if so, when. They also looked at ways to set maximum sustainable yields and at ways of enabling greater regional management of fisheries and effectively ending Brussels’ micro-management. 

Here’s a smattering of reaction from politicians, industry representatives and environmentalists:

Mette Gjerskov, Denmark’s minister for food, agriculture and fisheries: “I am very content that we have succeeded in finalizing some of the main negotiations within the EU fisheries policy. This means that we are on our way towards a radical reform that will ensure more sustainable fisheries in future. It is no longer a question if we want a ban on discard, but when and how. It has been a goal for the Danish Presidency to reach a general approach both to the basic regulation and the common organization of the markets for fisheries and aquaculture and we have reached this goal tonight.”

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s minister for agriculture, food and the marine: “I very much welcome the agreement reached today, which will support a more secure future for our fishermen. I have worked with our industry at home and with my EU ministerial colleagues to deliver a progressive and phased approach to ending this unacceptable practice of discarding dead fish. At the same time, the agreement protects the interests of fishermen while promoting a more sustainable approach to managing fish stocks. I hope that this new agreement will be welcomed by both the industry and those campaigning for sustainable management of fish stocks.”

Bertie Armstrong, CEO of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation: “We believe that some progress has been made on regionalization, which is of vital importance for there to be effective fisheries management in the future. However, the biggest area of discussion at yesterday’s Council was discards, where it looks like a graduated approach to banning the practice has been put forward, which would see a plan in place for herring and other pelagic species in early 2014, and all other species between 2015 and 2018. It is not possible to reduce or eliminate discards simply by putting a number on a page in any new regulations. Instead such aspirations can only be achieved through the use of practical management measures, which is why proper and sensible regional management is so important.”

• Green MEP Isabella Lövin of Sweden: “Fisheries ministers have demonstrated total short-sightedness with regards to the urgently-needed reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. Despite all the evidence and attention on the need for fundamental reform, if we are to prevent the demise of fish stocks and the fishing industry, fisheries ministers are keeping their heads in the sand. To add insult to injury, the ministers decided to weaken an already timid proposal from the Commission aimed at addressing the wasteful practice of discards. Instead of banning this much-maligned system of dumping dead fish into the sea, they want to adopt a gradual, case-by-case approach to discards, while increasing catch quotas to include fish that are discarded under the current system. The odious system of discards clearly needs to be ended and this means adopting a robust ban, while accompanying this with measures to promote the necessary improvements in fisheries techniques to improve selectivity and ensure that unwanted fish are not caught in the first place, and avoiding the creation of a parallel illegal market for bycatch.”

• Celebrity chef and TV personality Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: “It’s right to describe today’s commitment by EU ministers to a discards ban as a ‘massive breakthrough,’ and our Fish Fighters should be delighted that our message has been not only heard, but acted on. Well done Mr. [Richard] Benyon [the UK’s fisheries minister] and the other ministers who worked so hard through the night to push this through. We know that changing EU law will be a marathon, not a sprint, and there’s still much more to do in the coming months to make sure the ministers deliver on these promises. We need to change provisional dates into a completely committed timetable. We need to persuade MEPs to improve on, and then ratify the decisions taken by the ministers. Only then can we ensure that we will have sustainable fish stocks, a viable fishing industry and a healthy marine environment for generations to come. We’re counting on you, our 800,000 Fish Fighters to keep up the pressure!”


• Fellow celebrity chef and TV personality Jamie Oliver, who’s also a spokesman for Young’s Seafood Ltd., supported Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign via Twitter on Tuesday (he has nearly 2.3 million Twitter followers): “Please RT and support @hughsfishfight Restore fish stocks & end discards! @ClientEarth #fishfight.”

• Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe: “Although this result is highly disappointing, particularly with regards to the discard ban, it is realistically the best outcome we could have expected from the Fisheries Council. Ministers did not question the need to change fisheries management, they just admitted that they are not ready to do it right now. It is now up to the Parliament to lead and make the necessary and immediate changes required.”

Roberto Ferrigno, CFP project director for the World Wildlife Fund: “Today’s Fisheries Council compromise shows Ministers procrastinating in the face of a collapsing fisheries sector and increasing job losses. It is proof that after 30 years of mismanagement, Fisheries Ministers have once again settled for a European fisheries policy of the lowest common denominator, without any ambition to achieve sustainable fisheries or save fishing jobs in the next decade. With this agreement on a general approach for CFP reform, the EU shamefully backtracks on internationally agreed targets for achieving sustainable fisheries just one week ahead of the RIO summit.”

Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace-EU’s fisheries policy director: “After decades of bad fisheries management that has devastated fish stocks, ministers are failing miserably on their promise of an overhaul of EU fisheries management. They want to leave reform hanging in the balance, condemning fish and fishermen to another decade of overfishing and stock decline, with dire consequences for species like cod, hake and tuna. The European Parliament must now step into the reform process to make ministers come to their senses. Instead of backing a blanket ban on discards as soon as possible, ministers want to dither and to pick and choose which fish species the ban should apply to. Discarding will not stop unless fishermen use more selective gear and fish more sustainably. The best way to stop discards is to reward fishermen who fish sustainably and phase out destructive, indiscriminate industrial fishing, which causes most discards. This is something ministers have completely failed to do.”

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