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Fishing industry updates Lords on the impact of EU's fish discards ban

Evidence heard today by the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee has raised concerns about whether new EU fisheries legislation has been watered down.

The EU landing obligation aims to protect fish stocks, and the wider marine environment, by requiring fishers to land all fish caught (and be counted against their quota) rather than discarding unwanted fish overboard. It has been introduced gradually since 2015 and came into force in full in January.

Towards the end of 2018, representatives of the fishing industry told the Committee that this would result in people being forced to stop fishing within a couple of months, as fishers would quickly run out of quota. Four months on the same representatives have told the Committee that this has not happened and that the predicted ‘chokes' have not arisen. The Committee wishes to find out why this is the case.

The Committee was also concerned to hear from the British Port Authority's witness that ports have not seen an increase in unwanted fish, such as undersized fish that cannot be sold for human consumption, being landed, which should be happening if fishers had stopped discarding.

The main rationale the Committee was offered was that, at the last minute, the UK Government and other Member States negotiated a series of exemptions to the landing obligation which allow fishers to continue to discard a number of species, including those most likely to have resulted in ‘choke' issues.

The Committee is concerned that these exemptions, while good for fishers in the short term, suggest the ‘discard ban' has been watered down, and will therefore be ineffective in ensuring fishing takes place at sustainable levels.

The Committee will put their concerns to Rt Hon Robert Goodwill MP, the Minister responsible for fisheries, when he gives evidence to the Committee on 29 May 2019.

Today's evidence session follows on from the Committee's inquiry, undertaken in late 2018, on the UK's preparedness to implement the landing obligation.  It concluded that the four-year phasing in period had not been used effectively to prepare, and that the UK would not be in a position to ensure compliance with the landing obligation when it came into force.

Watch the session back here.

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