UK failing to implement sustainable fishing law
16 July 2019
The EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee publishes its follow-up report on wasteful fish discarding, six months on from the EU landing obligation coming into force.
The EU landing obligation aims to protect fish stocks by requiring fishers to land all fish caught rather than discarding unwanted fish overboard. Also called the discard ban, the law came in following an 870,000-signature petition to fight the 1.7 million tonnes of fish being discarded every year. It has been introduced gradually since 2015 and came into force in full in January. The Committee published an initial report about the discard ban in February 2019, expressing concern that the UK was not prepared to meet the requirements of the new law. Its new report reviews progress six months on.
The Committee is concerned that the Government does not know the extent of compliance with the EU landing obligation. The report urges the Government to put into place more robust mechanisms to monitor and enforce compliance, including the use of CCTV and other remote electronic monitoring on fishing boats in the UK after Brexit, and making highly selective fishing nets a condition of receiving extra fishing opportunities.
Last year, the fishing industry was concerned that the landing obligation combined with restrictions on the number of fish that can be caught (the 'quota') would negatively affect their businesses. However, six months on, there is little evidence of quota limits being reached . This was unexpected, and the Committee is concerned that there are no reports of so-called 'choke' because fishers may be discarding fish to avoid declaring that they have maxed-out their quota . The Committee argues that ultimately, long-term damage to fish stocks from unsustainable fishing will pose more of a threat to the fishing industry.
Lord Teverson, Chair of the Committee, said:
"In failing to collect data on selectivity, in failing to assess compliance before granting quota uplifts, and in failing to require remote electronic monitoring, Government is allowing this now illegal fishing practice to go unchecked. It is wholly inappropriate that the Minister viewed incentives as a viable solution to increase compliance amongst fishers: it sends the wrong message that abiding by the law is voluntary.
"Good progress has been made in recent years to improve the health of fish stocks in EU waters. But now it seems that fishing Ministers are once again tempted to make decisions based on short-term economic benefits rather than long-term sustainability. Unless the discard ban is properly implemented and enforced the UK’s fishing industry could in the future find itself with nothing left to fish."
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