Press release

Fisheries: UK fights to end discards in deal with no winners

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The UK has secured an agreement to a complete review of the controversial cod recovery plan for 2011.

The UK has secured an agreement to a complete review of the controversial cod recovery plan for 2011, including current days at sea restrictions, at the December Fisheries Council in Brussels today. During the meeting the UK also successfully fought for a 12 per cent increase in North Sea cod quota to allow expansion of the successful catch quota trials. Both deals will support our ongoing fight to stop perfectly edible fish being thrown overboard.

The Commissioner also paved the way for sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes following their decision to walk out of mackerel talks earlier this month.

Speaking from Brussels, Richard Benyon, Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, said:

“After two days of intense negotiations, with no clear winners, I am more convinced than ever that the Common Fisheries Policy is broken and needs radical reform. The Commission is right to place scientific evidence at the centre of the agreement and I am very pleased that they have responded to our calls to find a better way to end the dreadful waste of discards, but much more can still be done.

“I have been fighting hard to protect the livelihoods of our fishermen both now and in the long-term, but what we need is a new CFP so we can better manage our fish stocks and ensure the industry is sustainable.

“It is good to hear that the Commission are listening seriously to our concerns over Iceland and Faroe Island’s irresponsible behaviour on mackerel and are considering formal action. Iceland and the Faroe Islands’ plans to plunder mackerel from the sea threaten the health of our fishing industry and the long term future of these stocks.”

The current cod recovery plan places strong restrictions on the number of days that fishermen can spend at sea, forcing them to catch as much as possible on each day and increasing the likelihood of discards. During the review the UK will push for more days at sea and industry-wide recognition of the importance of sustainable fishing, meaning that fishermen should discard less.

The expansion of the catch quota trials will bring more fishermen into the scheme, further improving scientific evidence on conservation of fish stocks and reducing discards. Fishermen are allowed to catch more fish but have to land everything they catch and on-board CCTV checks to make sure they aren’t throwing any fish back into the sea.

The call for action against Iceland and the Faroes follows both countries’ announcement of plans to increase their mackerel catch - ignoring scientific advice - and their refusal to be part of an agreement with the EU and Norway on an appropriate way to manage the mackerel stock.

At December Fisheries Council the UK also successfully negotiated a number of other concessions. These include:

  • resisting calls to expand the cod recovery plan into the Celtic Sea. Cod is only a small proportion of the fish caught in this area and the introduction of restricted days at sea would have had a very negative impact on fishermen in the region.
  • fighting off a division of the English Channel into the Eastern and Western Channel sections, which would have resulted in a serious loss of UK fishing opportunities.
  • resisting the breakup of the Irish Sea into smaller ‘functional units’ for management of Nephrops stocks, which we believe would be impractical and costly to implement.
  • fighting off any reductions of fishing days for the Western Channel sole which, together with a 15 percent increase in the UK’s quota, brings a significant win for British fishermen.