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Anglers Condemn Fishing Industry’s Disregard For Discards and Government’s Meagre Monitoring


Bass netting

Just six months after the EU Landings Obligation (commonly known as the ‘discard ban’) came fully into force across Europe and a House of Lords committee has already heavily criticised the UK government for failing to enforce the ban which was introduced to eliminate the practice of throwing dead fish back to sea.

It’s worth remembering that it was the UK, under former Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon, which pushed hardest for the ban during the 2012 review of the EU Common Fisheries Policy and the UK who now appears to be failing to monitor whether anyone is bothering to comply with the regulations.

The fishing industry lobbied intensively against the introduction of the ban in the lead up to its introduction citing the impact on their businesses of reducing quotas and ‘choke’ species preventing them from fishing when the first of their quotas had been reached. 

However, the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee has found very little evidence of quotas being reached or unwanted, undersized or over-quota fish being landed, suggesting that the ban is being flagrantly ignored with fish continuing to be dumped at sea illegally in the face of very little enforcement or monitoring by fisheries managers and government agencies.

To make matters worse, quota uplifts were granted to the industry in recognition of fish that would otherwise have been discarded dead being landed – yet no monitoring of compliance with the ban, or monitoring of measures to improve the selectivity of fishing nets (thereby avoiding the catching of unwanted fish in the first place), has been implemented.

The Angling Trust is calling on the government to urgently address this situation of illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing by the UK fishing fleet which the Trust describes as using and abusing publicly-owned fish stocks with very little incentive to change while monitoring and enforcement of the ban remains so pitiful.

The Trust is calling for full implementation of the catch reporting measures for the under 10m fleet as soon as possible, the introduction of vessel monitoring systems for the under 10m fleet, as well as onboard CCTV and observers on over 10m vessels to ensure that the discard ban is being complied with.

David Mitchell, Head of Marine at the Angling Trust, said: “Nearly 900,000 people signed a petition in 2011 to eliminate discarding. While the message was drastically oversimplified at the time not a single one of them should have expected, seven years later, for the ban to have only recently been introduced or so pitifully complied with or enforced. The new UK Fisheries Bill and EU exit provides an opportunity to make sure UK fish stocks are fished at sustainable levels and as selectively as possible reducing the impact of fishing on unwanted catches and the wider marine environment.

Members of the public fishing for recreation or personal consumption are direct users and stakeholders of UK fisheries and illegal fishing damages an asset owned by the British public as well as destabilising the jobs and businesses that recreational fishing supports – assessed to be 24,000 full time equivalent jobs in England alone.

Lord Teverson, chair of the House of Lords Committee, said: “"In failing to collect data on selectivity, in failing to assess compliance before granting quota uplifts, and in failing to require remote electronic monitoring, Government is allowing this now illegal fishing practice to go unchecked.”

Mr Mitchell said: “Hundreds of thousands of recreational anglers and the £2bn industry their activity supports have a right to demand that the law introduced to ensure our publicly-owned fish stocks are not wasted is complied with and enforced by regulators”.

Details of the Eu Energy and Environment Sub-Committee report can be found here.

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