EU fisheries ministers voting to end discard practice

Wednesday 27 February 2013 14.48
The European Commission says 23% of all fish caught by EU vessels are thrown back into the sea
The European Commission says 23% of all fish caught by EU vessels are thrown back into the sea

EU talks are continuing to strike a deal to end the requirement on fishermen to discard fish species they inadvertently catch while fishing for their target quota species.

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney, who is chairing the talks, has said his EU colleagues "could easily be here until 4am".

However, Mr Coveney said he still believed a deal would be agreed which could see a ban on the discard of pelagic fish beginning "at the start of 2015" with a ban for other white fish being phased in from 2016.

He said the timing of the ban being introduced was contentious because "countries want to prepare their fleet for a fundamental new reality" which would be "an obligation to land everything you catch".

To achieve that aim, Mr Coveney said, trawlers would have to be able not just to store fish in boxes with ice but also, with some species, be able to use refrigeration.

He said some fish were "difficult to store" and the "vast majority of white fish boats in Ireland" did not have any refrigeration capacity.

Mr Coveney said ministers were trying to be "as ambitious as possible" while at the same time ensuring that the transition was something the fishing industry would be able to work with.

The European Commission says 23% of all fish caught by EU vessels are thrown back into the sea.

The UN says the northeast Atlantic has the highest discard level in the world, estimated at 1.3 million tonnes.

If a deal is done, Ireland in its capacity as President of the European Council, will then negotiate with the European Parliament and the European Commission to finalise the plan by June, a key part of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.

These complicated discussions fall into two main categories.

The first question is how to significantly reduce the catching of unwanted or juvenile fish through techniques such as the use of different nets.

The other focus is what to do with stock that is caught, but deemed to be above a quota.

One answer may be to turn such stock into fishmeal, but some member states argue that at a time of rising poverty good fish should be used to feed the needy.

Mr Coveney says whatever compromise is found, the new policy should not in any way encourage fishermen to exceed their quotas.

He expressed confidence a deal could be secured today and negotiations would then move onto the European Parliament.

Fianna Fáil MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher said he expected those negotiations to be very tough but, at this point, it seems likely the wasteful policy of discarding fish will finally be abolished by June.