Thursday February 28th, 2013

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has won another significant victory in his ‘Fish Fight’ campaign, which has already attracted over 850,000 signatures. EU fisheries ministers have agreed to a phased in ban on ‘discards’ or ‘fish dumping’ - throwing dead, unwanted fish back into the sea to satisfy EU quotas on fish landing quotas.

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said, 'What they agreed last night is weaker and harder to enforce than the ban our MEPs in the European Parliament voted for, with a huge majority, three weeks ago... There's now going to be weeks of negotiation to reach a final deal, and we will be fighting to strengthen those details and support our MEPs who want to see a discard ban that does the job it is supposed to.' He added that the fight is not over yet.

Despite the deal proving weaker than the European Parliament and British government had wanted, UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said it was 'a historic moment in reforming the broken Common Fisheries Policy'. He went on to say, 'The scandal of discards has gone on for too long and I'm delighted that the UK has taken such a central role in securing this agreement... I am disappointed that some of the measures required to put this ban into place are no longer as ambitious as I had hoped, but it's a price I am willing to accept if it means we can get the other details right.'

It is estimated that discards account for almost a quarter of all fish caught in European waters.
The main opposition to reforms on the scale demanded by MEPs came from France, Portugal and Spain, which led to concessions, such as the right for crews fishing a long way from land to continue to discard a limited proportion of their catch.

The final agreement means herring and whiting discards will be banned as of 2014, with white fish dumping banned from 2016. Fisheries ministers also decided to phase in the ban and allow greater flexibility on quotas.

Chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, Bertie Armstrong said the deal meant fishermen would be able to land more fish and told the press, 'Ministers seem to have taken care to agree upon a practical plan that would work for the fishing industry and we are pleased that a more realistic timescale for the implementation of a discards plan was agreed...Whilst this agreement is an important first step in ensuring the practical introduction of a discards ban, it should be recognised that huge challenges remain for the industry in its implementation that will require major changes in the way that fishermen operate.'
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