Fish being dumped at sea despite EU rules

| 2nd September 2019
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the celebrity chef, says EU quota system means fishermen compelled to discard fish that are too young, overfished or species for which they did not have a quota.

I can't risk going to sea and catching that particular species if I'm going to get prosecuted.

Unwanted fish are being dumped back into the sea despite new EU laws designed to stop waste, an investigation has found.

Under the recently established laws, fishermen are no longer supposed to "discard" fish when they catch more than their quota allows.

The campaign was brought to the fore by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who argued that the EU's quota system meant fishermen were compelled to discard fish that were too young, overfished or species for which they did not have a quota.

Fit

The UN Agriculture Organisation estimated that 13 percent of all catches were being thrown back every year, amounting to 1.3 million tons of fish.

The new laws mean fishermen have to bring species covered by EU quotas back to shore.

But BBC Inside Out South West has unearthed video evidence that fishermen are still discarding fish.

Crews say the laws are complicated and that they could still be prosecuted, fined or banned from fishing if their hauls take them over their agreed quotas on certain species.

A spokesman for government department Defra said they would look to create a policy that is "fit for purpose" after leaving the EU.

Implemented

Steve Walker, a fisherman from Plymouth, told the BBC: "I can't risk going to sea and catching that particular species if I'm going to get prosecuted.

"If it's going to affect my business then I'm not going to bring it in because I cannot afford not to go to sea.

"And if it means I have to throw away six of seven fish then I'm going to do that because I've got to survive."

Under the new laws, more fish should have been brought into ports. But since the new rules were fully implemented this January, only 28 tonnes of discards have been landed in the UK.

The Government expected a much larger figure.

Sustainable

However, some fishing industry leaders say new-style nets are reducing the number of unwanted fish being caught.

A Defra spokesman said: "We are fully committed to sustainable fishing, including ending the wasteful discarding of fish.

"However, we are also aware of the challenges posed to industry by the landing obligation, and are continuing to work with industry to address this issue.

"After we leave the EU, we will be able to develop a discard policy that is fit for purpose.

"Our landmark Fisheries Bill will give us new powers to create charging schemes to encourage more sustainable fishing practices, making sure we have a sustainable and profitable fishing industry for the benefit of both our fishermen and the health of life in our seas."

This Author

Rod Minchin is a reporter with PA. The investigation will feature on Inside Out South West on Monday September 2 at 7.30pm.

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