Stopping the wasteful practice of discarding edible fish is one of the key elements of the reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy.
In June, EU fisheries Ministers have moved a step forward by subscribing to a real discard ban with clear end-dates.
It is a fact that the Commission proposal is more ambitious than the compromise reached among the EU Member States. Ourproposal is based on the principle that the easiest way to reduce the amount of fish that are discarded is to avoid catching them in the first place: improving gear selectivity is a central element in the strategy to reduce unwanted catches, and an obligation to land all catches can be an important driver for flexibility.
However, this will not solve the whole problem: supporting measures, including market led measures are needed.
Can this be done in practice? Yes. I am planning to table a proposal that will concern a limited geographical area (the Skagerrak – the strait running between Norway, Sweden, and the Jutland) but will have a high importance in helping us to convince those who still question the feasibility of a discard ban within a precise timeframe.
According the proposal, the EU and Norway are to harmonize fisheries technical and control measures to ensure long-term sustainability of fish stocks. It will include an obligation to land all catches of certain fish species – to stop the practice of discarding.
The new measures will apply to all EU Member States having fishing rights in the Skagerrak: Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. For the first time, we will see how a ban can work in practice, specifying for instance what uses can be done of undersized fish, which shouldn’t go for human consumption, except for charitable purposes.
Ending discards is a commitment that we can not avoid: it can be done and it must be done.