Kirkhope canvasses opinion on fish discards

Timothy Kirkhope MEP

Timothy Kirkhope MEP

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A YORKSHIRE MEP has asked Whitby fishermen to get in touch with their views on possible new quota regulations.

Timothy Kirkhope, MEP for Yorkshire and the The Humber has cautiously welcomed the results of a UK trial, which are reported to have virtually eliminated the amount of edible fish being ‘discarded’.

Mr Kirkhope said: “While it would seem that the results of this trial are encouraging I want to hear the views of the fishermen themselves.

“These are the people whose livelihoods can be affected by these rules and regulations and should be the most important consideration.

“I really want to hear from the horse’s mouth what the fishermen believe to be the best way forward.

“We all agree that the practice of discards is wrong but how to eliminate this is still open to discussion.”

The trial reduced discards of North Sea cod to around 0.2% compared to average rates for North Sea cod trawlers of 38% in 2010.

Under the current rules, which govern fishing across EU countries, fishermen have quotas for certain fish but can carry on fishing once the limits are reached as long as they do not bring any more of that species to shore.

As a result, many tonnes of edible fish are thrown back as discards.

In the trials of the ‘catch quota’ system the fishermen had to land all of the fish of those species they catch, so they all count as part of the quota.

While they have a larger quota than they would otherwise, once it has been used they have to stop fishing completely.

CCTV monitoring has been in place to ensure the rules are adhered to.

“I do have reservations about this planned new scheme,” said Mr Kirkhope.

“The commission has proposed a gradual phasing out of discards of commercial species through a land-all policy but I fear that in practice, this will not be workable, especially for mixed fisheries.

“We must focus our attention on not catching unwanted fish in the first place through more selective gear.

“A land-all policy would only move the discards from the sea to the land.

“We should offer fishermen incentives to use more selective gears such as a higher quota share or extra days at sea.

“This would get to the heart of the problem and would incentivise fishermen to fish more sustainably.

“Of course there are also discards involving species with a high survival rate such as nephrops, sharks and crabs.

“This is why we need to ensure that any finalised reform policy includes derogations for such species.

“A land all policy in this instance would actually increase mortality in these species.”

To contact Mr Kirkhope MEP email timothy.kirkhope@europarl.europa.eu