Monday, 13th June 2011
Star-power no substitue for common sense on discards
The following article was published in 'The Scotsman' on Saturday 11 June 2011
The European Parliament was fed an expertly filleted, lightly sautéed portion of common sense last week, as TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall brought his BAFTA-winning 'Fish Fight' campaign to Brussels.
He was there to raise awareness of the campaign to end fish discards, a practice that sees over one million tonnes of healthy fish dumped back into EU waters once caught by our struggling fishing industry.
Yet, as Fearnley-Whittingstall served MEPs and eurocrats fresh catch outside the entrance to the Parliament, and EU Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki pledged support for his campaign, I couldn’t help wondering why the madness of discards was not stopped long ago.
I have long been highlighting the criminal insanity and waste of perfectly edible fish being thrown overboard dead just to satisfy the EU's Common fisheries Policy (CFP). Instead of being made to dump their catch, fishermen should be compelled to land everything. Discarding fish should be an offence and every vessel should be fitted with CCTV to monitor compliance. On top of that, fishermen should be incentivised to end discards by rewarding them with extra quota.
The discards issue is just one of many that need fixed. The CFP has been an abject failure since it was first introduced. Far from maintaining fish stocks and sustaining jobs in the fisheries sector, it has led to the disastrous situation where around 80% of European stocks are in a critical state of over-exploitation. The current mish-mash of measures has almost wrecked the industry and reduced our fishermen’s incomes to a pittance.
Later this summer the European Parliament will receive the long-awaited proposal from the Commission to reform the CFP. It must get the details right or we could harm fish stocks yet further. Focus should be on decentralising responsibility for fisheries management down to regional level, with decisions made in conjunction with local fishermen based on science and sustainability, not the dictates of remote bureaucrats in Brussels.
With all due respect to the famous faces behind the Fish Fight campaign, the EU shouldn’t wait for celebrities to tell it what is right for our fishermen and the environment before acting.