Yes! We’ve done it! Bans on fish discards are to be phased in from January 2014 (stork; herring) and 2016 (white breeds of fish)
Despite protests from Mediterranean countries as well as France, the EU has voted that a ban on discarding “extra” fish will be phased in. MEPs also overwhelmingly backed calls for sweeping reform on the Common Fisheries Policy. While the UK is disappointed the ban is not absolute, it is certainly a step in the right direction.
Spain, France and Portugal have succeeded in clinging on to some restricted exemptions, particularly surrounding crews operating far from land in mixed fisheries where the cost of landing unwanted fish is deemed to be prohibitive. The crews involved will be allowed to discard 9%, shrinking to 7%. However, critics from the northern nations and European Commission say this figure is too high on the advice of public expects who say that in a hungry world no fish should be thrown away.
This start down the road to success illustrates how influential mass public pressure can be. Support has come from the Online campaign Avaaz (1 million signed up) as well as celebrity-chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and pressure group Fish2Fork. The UK Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon, said the decision was “historic.”
However, it is also telling that the EU took so long to react to public calls. The details have not yet been thrashed out (no pun intended) and it is this detail that will really show us how far the EU are willing to go to clamp down on irresponsible fishing and protect fish for the future. The ban that has been voted for is weaker and harder-to-enforce than the proposals supported by MEPs in Parliament three weeks ago but a milestone has been reached.
As a lover of fish and chips, well, you’ll know my thoughts.
What Can You Do?
- sign up to one of the many online campaigns or join a pressure group. Sign petitions to get them noticed and join in activist work to further this cause
- eat sustainable fish – swap cod for pollock or coley and try Scottish langoustines instead of prawns. It’s a tasty local alternative!
- check your chippy! – fish2fork has a fantastic list of restaurants and ratings of chip shops and fish restaurants all across the country. Maybe ask your local to stock some rarer breeds or to buy MSC Certified haddock where over-fishing is carefully monitored.
long live the fish!