EU compromise deal on dumping of fish criticised

 

EU FISHERIES ministers have been criticised both by fishing and environmental interests for their latest attempt to eradicate dumping of unwanted catches at sea.

The compromise deal to outlaw discards by 2018 was secured after more than 20 hours of negotiations, ending shortly before 5am yesterday in Luxembourg.

Ireland’s negotiating team said it was the “the most significant EU fisheries council in over a decade”.

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney said the compromise which he had tabled represented a “progressive and phased approach to ending this unacceptable practice of discarding dead fish”.

However, Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Seán O’Donoghue said the ministers were “pandering to the public-relations interests of celebrity chefs” rather than coming up with a workable solution which would protect fish stocks.

Discarding of edible fish – dumped by vessels under EU quota rules – has been one of the most contentious issues in the current debate on reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

Most of the estimated 1.3 million tonnes of fish dumped in the northeast Atlantic are thrown overboard by EU vessels under EU rules – a symptom of the failure of the heavily bureaucratic policy for managing “blue Europe”.

It is expected that a ban on discarding fish such as mackerel and herring is likely to be implemented from 2014, with bans on dumping of cod, haddock, plaice and sole phased in between 2015 and 2018.

Ireland had originally sought to push back a final ban to 2020, and its compromise formula has been supported by France and Spain, both of which have large fleets working in Irish waters.

EU maritime affairs commissioner Maria Damanaki had made ending discards a priority after the issue was highlighted in Britain by chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his “Fish Fight” campaign.

Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation spokeswoman Caitlín Uí Aodha said the problem of discards was “created by bad fishing policy in Europe”.

“We support eradication of discards but we have a vessel down here which has been arrested for refusing to dump fish outside the quota,” she said. “There has to be a realistic look at quotas allocated in the first instance.”

By forcing vessels to land species caught outside quotas, without looking at ways of avoiding netting the species at all, was simply “transferring dumping on sea to land”, Mr O’Donoghue said.

The Ocean 2012 campaign – an umbrella group of environmental organisations formed by the Pew Environment Group, the conservation arm of a US non-profit group known as the Pew Charitable Trusts – expressed disappointment at the compromise.

“EU fisheries ministers have continued their record of mismanagement by delaying the ending of overfishing in the EU and by its fleet globally,” Ocean 2012 spokesman Mike Walker said.

“We are now looking to the European Parliament to support reform that delivers a healthy marine environment and viable fisheries-dependent communities.”