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CAN WE TOLERATE DISCARDING?

What is discarding?

When fishermen haul up their nets, alongside the intended catch, they also inevitably amass “by-catches”, fish that are outside of the quotas. It is currently illegal to bring by-catches back to ports; therefore fishermen throw them back into the sea despite the fact that they are either already dead or dying. This is discarding.

The historical reasons behind discarding were essentially to help ensure that fishing quotas are enforced. So the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy has sometimes given incentives for discarding. But whatever the original rationale behind discards, it has created a paradoxical situation – and it only causes more damage.

Figures for European fisheries are alarming: for instance, in the whitefish fishery up to half of the catch is thrown overboard and in the flatfish fishery we are even talking about 70 % of the catches being discarded. Since our stocks are declining, these figures are not justifiable any more.

I have made it abundantly clear that we need to bring an end to the disgraceful practice of discarding. In the context of the ongoing Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy this will be a priority issue. There is already broad support among the general public in favor of a discards ban.

There is a clear need to have a political discussion with key policy-makers across the European Union on this issue. On the 1st of March I invited EU Fisheries ministers, Members of the European Parliament, and the Court of Auditors for a High Level Meeting on discards. It was a very good meeting, and all participants were fully engaged in this policy debate.

This is not an easy task. A ban cannot be introduced overnight, and the difficulties are well known: the issue is technically complex, the specificities of each sea basin and fishery must be taken into account, and the effective application of the ban must be ensured.

Several options are on the table and we need to speak to those who will have to make the change happen, to choose together the best solutions: to scientists, to get advice on the timeline we have to stick to and the species that need to be covered; to the industry, to find appropriate accompanying marketing measures and incentives for compliance; to the organizations that work to ensure that our environment is protected; and of course to fishermen, who will need to develop innovative approaches to gear selectivity to reduce by-catches.

There is an emerging consensus for targeting a ban. I will continue this dialogue. On the 3rd of May I will meet the stakeholders and I look forward to discussing their approaches.  There is no time to waste.

CAN WE TOLERATE DISCARDING?, 3.8 out of 5 based on 5 ratings

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13 Responses to “CAN WE TOLERATE DISCARDING?”

  1. andrew craig says:

    Mrs Damanaki, with respect, what ever the FAO,  CEFAS or ICES report is its of no importance, the fact remains all UK fishermen report that the Cod stocks of all year classes are heather than at any time in living memory in all North sea and UK waters, that is based on undisputable factual evidence by the only professionals who are educated in this field and  have spent hundreds of thousands of hours at sea catching Cod amongst other species, the Fishermen.  Please remember that no fisherman’s organisation or indeed fishermen in the EU will recognise the stock assessment so call Science as being fit for purpose, Fishermen will always try and work with these Scientists, not because they believe in them but only because they wish to try and limit the damage they do to the stocks and industry, Please Please make sure the only Science recognised by the CFP is based on factual evidence and not complete fiction as at the present time and the last thirty years. If you do not, your intended reforms will be a disaster for the industry and stocks.
    I fully appreciate the fact that no commissioner could ever understand the Fishing industry, as it is very complex and if you don’t earn your living from fishing, quite simply there is no chance of understanding it. As such I also fully appreciate the fact that you are very reliant on your advisers, some of which are the Scientists, this is where the system has always fallen apart. Again can you please guarantee the industry that all current so called scientific stock assessments are completely disregarded?

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  2. andrew craig says:

    After just returning from a trip to Peterhead in Scotland, I would like to report that most of the boats in that area have now filled there annual Cod quota set in January, this means any more Cod they catch between now and next January will have to be dumped back into the sea dead, this comes after all the vessels have been trying there best to avoid catching Cod.
    Quite simply, the Science used to set TAC’s is not only wrong but not fit for purpose, the only way to stop this insanity is to raise the quotas to a reasonable level to match the overwhelming stocks available.
     
     

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    • Maria Damanaki says:

      Indeed, we need to address the issue of discards and I intend to do it in the most effective way.
      Unfortunately, the reality is quite different from what you describe: FAO reports that almost 85% of the world fish stocks for which information is available are either fully exploited or overexploited.
      The EU must strive to reverse this situation, through swift and bold initiatives, to safeguard environment and to the benefit of fishermen, that would see their catches and profit margins increase remarkably, if stocks were not overexploited.
      This is what I aim at achieving through the forthcoming reform of the Common Fisheries Policy;

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  3. rowmarcus says:

    Hi,
    I’d just like to add my voice to the growing crowd disgusted with the Common Fisheries policy’s enforcement of discarding.  Purely from a human standpoint I fail to see how we in Western Europe (which of course corresponds to many countries within the EU) can permit such a waste of valuable, good food, when other countries in the world have residents struggling to feed themselves.  Whilst I recognise that there are scientific reasons and some history behind the current situation, this is simply a question of right versus wrong!  And I am appalled to be living within a country (UK) that is so clearly on the ‘wrong’ side, effectively supporting the needless killing of millions of good fish every year.  Please do something about this, get this madness to stop as soon as possible.  Yours, Marcus Row

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  4. captainfishy says:

    Yes, discarding fish is deplorable, but when figures are quoted in percentages, such as “70% of the catches being discarded”, with no attempt at further explanation or justification, there is risk that your proposed cure may be worse than the illness.
    Let me put to you 2 questions:
    If the majority of those 70% survive the experience of discarding and live to spawn, is that a positive contribution to biomass?
    If the “cure” is a ban on discards and all those 70% are now retained, killed and rendered to fishmeal, what is the contribution to biomass?

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    • Maria Damanaki says:

      Thank you for your very interesting comment, which allows for clarifying this important point: a  discards ban will make sure that we do not catch fishes just to throw them back to the sea, while the basic foundation of the policy will remain the same: we cannot take more out of the seas than scientific advise allows us to take out. So in the end fisherman can land as many fish as scientifically possible in order to keep stocks sustainable.

      But I am conscious of the complexity of this challenge on the practicalities of a discard ban and I am having an open discussion with stakeholders in a meeting on the 3rd of May so that we can identify a constructive and manageable way forward.

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      • andrew craig says:

        Mrs Damanski, you still seem to be missing the point, the present Science is nor has ever been fit for purpose, so how could it be used to asses stocks, or set TAC’s, the only reason boats are forced to dump so much fish is because it is imposable to keep clear of it as the stocks are so healthy, quite simply if the stocks are poor the Fisherman couldn’t catch them if they wanted to, Fishermen don’t want to catch fish just to dump it, this just creates a lot more work for no benefit. Please remember that here in the UK at least, the fleet has reduced by around 90% in numbers and several thousand % in capacity in the last twenty years, so over fishing is now an impossibility. Might I ask again, if Science is to be used in any way can we please ensure it is based on undisputable factual evidence and not guess work as at present?

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        • sof says:

          Im surprised you can assume any science is indesputiable, regarding your concerns.. Im only 21 and at Uni but I am learning and I have my opinions. Surely the evidence you give yourself is proof of over fishing, there is correlation between fleet reducing in numbers and over fishing. We are at over exploited and fully exploited levels of fishing, giving reason onto those figures. Also it is a bigger issue than just the UK surely you agree? The waters we can devide but where those fish swim we can not. I am deeply interested in this part of my degree so any helpfull information would go a long way with me, becuase I do believe this is an issue we can and should and will resolve.
          Thankyou for your time in reading
          Sof

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  5. financialtools1 says:

    Dear Commissioner  Damanaki :

    Fish Discarding is a very bad situation and thanks for your work on it .
    Now another ” toxic discarding ” is showing up on lakes , bays , rivers and beaches in the USA from gas fracking chemicals , and here is a full report by Ian Urbina on it :

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html?ref=drillingdown

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/us/02gas.html?ref=drillingdown

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/science/earth/08water.html?ref=drillingdown

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/us/04gas.html?ref=drillingdown , and we still don’t have the full list of  toxic chemicals used  , even when it includes radium and uranium and most if not all TREATMENT PLANTS ARE NOT PREPARED TO FILTER NEW WASTE-WATER FROM GAS FRACKING , so let’s hope the EU stands for common sense and instead focuses on wave-current turbines for electric energy and off-shore wind and sun electricity systems, which could also support fresh and open water fish farms and new jobs, support the future and not the past.

    another issue is genetically altered salmon in the USA, and which could overpower regular fresh salmon around the world :

    Genetically altered salmon spook Northwest lawmakers
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/03/06/109873/genetically-altered-salmon-spook.html

    FDA nears approval of genetically engineered salmon
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/07/11/97277/fda-nears-approval-of-genetically.html
    http://www.sacbee.com/2011/03/08/3458011/genetically-altered-salmon-spook.html

    It’s also about lifting all, everyone, not just a few sharp “operators ” and for greedy profits, but to lift the whole society.

    Dear Commissioner , in every aspect, these are more tests of where the EU ( and the World )  is going : forward or backwards, clean or dirty , smart or stupid, and we hope and vote for the best, thanks for your work.
    http://financialtools1.blogspot.com/
     

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    • Maria Damanaki says:

      Thank you for your contribution. I agree that we need to identify areas where more basic or applied research efforts are needed prior to commercialisation, and which generic innovation trends and technological developments should be supported – a striking example being the harvesting of wave energy in the United Kingdom, where innovators, investors and the government are now moving fast towards the marketing of this marine renewable energy, creating high-quality jobs and paving the way for a new green industry.

      In terms of bio-economy, the Commission is currently running a public consultation on this, pointing out that the sustainable use of biological resources from both land and sea in order to replace fossil-based resources while guaranteeing food security will have to be one strand of our long-term economic strategy.

      As for fisheries, there is a new system in the making that clearly focuses on sustainability in all its aspects: environmental, social and economic. By adopting an ecosystem-based approach, we make sure we exploit resources sustainably and derive stable catches in the long term – which in turn means stability for the sector. By moving decision-making away from Brussels, we make sure that the needs of regional and local communities are accounted for. By financing only projects that contribute to the EU 2020 agenda for growth, we encourage fishermen and other operators to find innovative solutions with green credentials.

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      • andrew craig says:

        Hello Mrs Damanaki, After closely following the resent discussion of discards and arguing for this for many decades, I note there has been very little comment regarding the very poor Science, that is the sole cause of all large marketable fish being discarded. Can you please advise me of how you intent stopping this threat to our fish stocks.

        Regards
        Andrew Craig

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        • Maria Damanaki says:

          The new Common Fisheries Policy must become a policy that has sustainability written all over it and scientific data should be at the basis of policymaking.
          If it does not do away with discards then it will not deserve this name.

          I did recently outline my basis approach in a speech to Members of the European Parliament and ministers. I invite you to read my ideas.

          But I am conscious of the complexity of this challenge and I am having an open discussion with stakeholders in a meeting on the 3rd of May so that we can identify a constructive and manageable way forward.

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          • andrew craig says:

            I Would fully agree that the Science is very important, if that Science had some form of credibility, unfortunately this has never been the case in the fishing industry and I think it  fair to say all European Fishermen have watched in disbelief at how the stock assessments are conducted.  When a marine biologist who knows nothing about catching fish, charters a boat not suitable for conducting fisheries surveys, goes to an area that has always been Barron of fish, puts the wrong types of nets in the water and catches no fish, is the out come of that survey considered to be credible, as that is exactly how every stock assessment is conducted, so could we please change the policy so that no assessments are conducted at sea, but only from landings by boats and therefore indisputable factual evidence.
            Regards
            Andrew Craig

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