Discards will become a thing of the past after the UK Government secured a historic victory in Brussels to set firm dates to introduce a ban.
The agreement signals a momentous step towards fundamental reform of the broken Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and will see the wasteful practice of discarding edible fish banned for pelagic stocks like herring and mackerel from January 2014. A ban for white fish stocks was also agreed, to begin in January 2016.
UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon played a pivotal role in brokering the agreement that was eventually reached following a day and night of lengthy negotiations.
Speaking from Brussels, Richard Benyon said:
This is a historic moment in reforming the broken Common Fisheries Policy. The scandal of discards has gone on for too long and I’m delighted that the UK has taken such a central role in securing this agreement.
I am disappointed that some of the measures required to put this ban into place are no longer as ambitious as I had hoped but it’s a price I am willing to accept if it means we can get the other details right.
The final package will still need to be agreed with the EU Parliament but the result we have achieved today is another step in the right direction and will prove to be good for both fishermen and the marine environment.
The deal that was reached also builds on the achievements of last year when the UK secured a legally binding commitment to fish sustainably, and to allow more regional decision making.
The UK Government faced immense pressure from other Member States who wanted to water down plans to ban discards and Richard Benyon successfully prevented a totally unacceptable blanket discard exemption for Boarfish and Blue Whiting.
Furthermore the Minister successfully fought off attempts to include a modification in the new Common Fisheries Policy for quota swapping that would have allowed other countries access to UK quota.
Defra and the fishing industry are currently working on plans to ensure a smooth transition to the new Common Fisheries Policy. This involves work to improve selectivity of fishing gear, understanding more about which fish can be returned to the sea alive and ensuring that our ports can handle any extra fish that may be landed.