Lords Environment committee criticises Government failure to monitor fish caught under discard ban

Date posted: 8 February 2019

Mixed fish catch on Trawler
© NOAA Office of Marine and Aircraft Operations

…we simply don’t know enough about what fish we are taking out of our seas and how much is being discarded

Sam Stone,
MCS Head of Fisheries and Aquaculture

Having already raised grave concerns about the EU landing obligation and its consequences for the UK’s fishing industry, the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee published its report “Fisheries: implementation and enforcement of the EU landing obligation” today.

The obligation aims to put an end to the practice of discarding fish. 1.7 million tonnes of fish were being thrown back into the sea each year, because fishers were catching species they did not want or weren’t allowed to keep. The introduction of the EU landing obligation to reduce waste in our fisheries and improve fisheries management was strongly supported by the UK Government originally, with strong public support, too. Spurred on by a public petition that attracted 870,000 signatures, the EU agreed to legislation in 2013 that would require fishers to land everything they caught.

The rules have been slowly phased in since 2015, and came into force in full on 1 January 2019. However, in its report, the Committee states that the new rules have not been implemented successfully, stating that “Although the landing obligation has applied to a number of UK fish stocks since 2015, we heard no evidence that fishers have been complying with it. Little attempt appears to have been made to enforce the landing obligation’s requirements thus far, allowing the discarding of fish to continue”.

The report goes on to say that “The landing obligation’s four-year phasing-in period should have allowed Member States, the fishing industry and other stakeholders to work together and plan for how the new rules could be successfully applied to all fisheries from 1 January 2019. This did not happen”.

Sam Stone, MCS Head of Fisheries and Aquaculture says “We welcome this report, which does a good job of documenting a truly challenging new element of fisheries management. There are many useful recommendations, one of which we particularly believe must be taken into domestic fisheries legislation. As the report states, remote electronic monitoring (REM) systems for all vessels operating in UK waters would enable fishing effort to be monitored in a reliable and cost-effective way.”

“The Lords report has highlighted that as things stand, we simply don’t know enough about what fish we are taking out of our seas and how much is being discarded. This has serious implications for the health of our fish stocks and our ocean environment and it is disappointing that Government is not doing enough to monitor catches. MCS is pushing for the new Fisheries Bill to provide a robust monitoring and enforcement system making use of cost effective new technology such as cameras on boats. We are very encouraged that the Lords Committee has highlighted these concerns which we have been raising with Government for a long time and we hope this can be addressed through the Fisheries Bill.”

Read the report: Fisheries: implementation and enforcement of the EU landing obligation

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