No firm dates agreed for discard ban

13 Jun 2012
A ban on discards has been agreed, but no firm dates have been given

A ban on discards has been agreed, but no firm dates have been given

The UK Government has said that the general approach agreed at this week's EU Council meeting in Luxembourg is a major step towards a radical reform of the broken Common Fisheries Policy.

Following 24 hours of negotiations, the Council agreed that there should be a ban on discards but the date in which this will be achieved will be subject to further negotiations. Provisional dates would see a ban on discards in pelagic fisheries (such as mackerel and herring) by 1 January 2014 and a ban on discards in whitefish fisheries (cod, haddock, plaice and sole) on a phased basis starting on 1 January 2015 and fully in place by 1 January 2018.

Leading negotiations for the UK, Richard Benyon, minister for the natural environment and fisheries, said: “After years of pressing to eliminate discards it was always my aim to get the Council to agree to end this wasteful practice as soon as possible. While I am disappointed that the Council has not agreed the firm dates that I was seeking, a commitment to eliminating discards is a step in the right direction.”

He said that the agreement reached is an important step towards achieving healthy fish stocks, a prosperous fishing industry and a healthy marine environment, but also said that there is still a lot more work to be done.

The EU Council also agreed to move powers away from Brussels so that Member States can work together regionally to develop management plans, and implement measures which are appropriate to their own fisheries.

Overfishing has been one of the many failings of the current Common Fisheries Policy which is why the UK Government is keen for any new policy for to contain a clear legal commitment, and deadlines, to achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield as soon as possible. Following negotiations the Council has agreed legally binding limits on fishing levels to ensure scientific advice is taken into account when agreeing annual quotas. This would put concrete limits in EU law that have previously been less rigid political commitments.

WWF's CFP project director, Roberto Ferrigno has released a statement saying:

“WWF called on Fisheries Ministers to ensure that the CFP basic regulation include ambitious timelines and implementing tools on the achievement of maximum sustainable yield (MSY); the establishment of multiannual plans (MAPs); the end of wasteful fishing practices, and an end to the overcapacity of EU fleets both inside and outside EU waters. By ignoring these recommendations, governments choose to perpetrate the status quo, wasting the once-in-a-decade opportunity to put the fisheries sector on the road to recovery.

“The Council seems intent on bulldozing the European Parliament (EP) into a rushed deal and a botched reform. We call on MEPs to keep working towards sustainable fisheries and respond to massive public and industry support for ambitious reform. Superficial changes alone will not save Europe’s fish and fisheries sector from collapse.”

“Although this result is highly disappointing, particularly with regards to the discard ban, it is realistically the best outcome we could have expected from the Fisheries Council”, stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana. “Ministers did not question the need to change fisheries management, they just admitted that they are not ready to do it right now. It is now up to the Parliament to lead and make the necessary and immediate changes required.”

Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy needs to be agreed by the EU Parliament and it is unlikely that any changes will be agreed before the end of this year. 

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