Eastern MEP speaks out against fish discards

One of the region’s Euro-MPs has made a strong speech against the current disgraceful fish discards imposed on local fishermen by the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), in a bid to save what remains of the centuries-old industry.

Eastern region MEP David Campbell Bannerman, made the speech as part of a long anticipated debate in the European Parliament on the Common Fisheries Policy, that follows protests from the public and celebrities, such as TV Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his Fish Fight, which David signed up to early on.

The protests have been against the current rules that force fishermen to throw back any fish caught above their strict quota, even though the fish are already dead by the time they have to be discarded, with discards reaching up to 90% in some UK waters.

Although the debate today did not fix a precise date for the removal of the discard rules, a timetable for such decisions to be made was agreed.

In his speech to the Parliament Mr Campbell Bannerman, a member of the International Trade Committee, said: “”I welcome the limited reforms passed today, despite strong resistance. All credit to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for his sterling efforts and to ECR Group.

“”I fear however that this is still rather like spraying perfume on a long, dead fish - the bad odour lingers on.

“The Common Fisheries Policy has been a disaster. It has failed both to secure fish stocks and to support fishing jobs. The East of England fishing community has been devastated by it, and fishing right across the UK.

“The issue of discards in particular is an absolute disgrace: the practice of throwing edible, dead fish back in the sea. Discards are up to 90% in some areas. Norway and Iceland have never had discards, and regard them as criminal. So why has it taken so long for the EU to follow, and why do we still have measures such as Article 119(/4) which wanted still to allow some discards? “The problem continues.”

Speaking in Strasbourg after the vote, the MEP added: “”I have been contacted by a huge amount of constituents angry at the current situation, and urging support for the ending of discards.

“Today’s vote puts in place a mandate for that change to take place, and for the sake of my concerned constituents and the future of the fishing industry in the Eastern Counties, I will not let this matter drop until these outrageously wasteful discards are ended.”

Two other local MEPs joined the debate:

Vicky Ford said: “I hope this will be the time when the tide finally changes in favour of fish and sustainable local fisheries instead of Brussels-based lunacy. The EU quotas systems which mean perfectly edible fish are thrown dead back into the sea is morally abhorrent and I’m very pleased that they will stop. Furthermore, I have seen how cod is labelled “local” in Lowestoft when actually it has been caught by huge freezer-trawlers in Russia. In the meantime our local fishermen who are in small boats have no discards, they use lines not nets, which are the most sustainable methods, and yet the Brussels quotas mean they are not allowed to catch the fish. This is madness. I only hope these reforms are not too late for our local fishing fleet.”

Geoffrey Van Orden MEP added: “The Common Fisheries Policy has consistently failed to protect either our fish or our local fishing industry. Under the existing regime there are often more inspectors and bureaucrats at our fishing ports than there are fishing boats. This vote will start a process of returning decision making from Brussels to Britain and addressing the needs of our local fishermen. It will end discards, ensure that EU vessels fishing outside of the EU also abide by these regulations, and bring back decision making power on how to allocate fishing rights.”