Tag Archives: Fish Fight

Vital European debate on wasteful fish discards

Fish Fight march, London, Britain - 25 Feb 2013

Campaigners protest outside Westminster. Photo: Rex Features

Crucial negotiations in Brussels in the next few days will decide whether the EU’s wasteful fish discards policy will come to an end.

Currently, millions of healthy fish back are thrown back into the sea each year after they have been caught, because of the way the EU’s quotas are managed.

But a ban on discards has gathered huge public backing since the TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall made it a personal campaign more than two years ago, highlighting the waste of the EU’s rapidly dwindling fish stocks. He has gathered the support of the UK fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, who will fight for the ban in an EU meeting starting on Monday.

This week’s battle will be intense. For the opponents of a ban, including Spain and Portugal, this is the last chance to scupper proposals that would mean the biggest shakeup of the EU common fisheries policy since it was brought in four decades ago.

Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose FishFight campaign has gathered more than 850,000 supporters, said that it was “crunch time” for the reforms that are needed to end the “crazy system”. He said: “We need a strong discard ban and a legally enforceable commitment to restore fish stocks to sustainable levels. To any sane person, wasting half a million tonnes of fine edible fish every year is simply unacceptable.”

A number of countries and MEPs want to keep the discards system because it allows their large fishing fleets to maximise profits. Fishermen discard parts of their catch when they have netted species for which they do not have a quota, because it leaves more room to take home the species they are after, or when they have exceeded their quota they often throw back smaller specimens. They also throw back lower-value species for which there is less commercial demand.

All of these measures allow fishermen to maximise their profits, taking ashore only the most valuable section of their catch and throwing the rest away – even though the discarded fish are healthy and edible. Reform would mean they have to land the whole catch, which should help to stop the plunder of the EU’s dwindling fish stocks.

If the reformers win the day, there could be a discards ban in place for many important species within a year, with the rest phased in over the next three to five years. Fishing rights would also have to be set according to scientific advice as to the “maximum sustainable yield”.

Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “The French and Spanish may have learned to profit from this crazy system down the years, but now it has to end. Kowtowing to their calls for compromise and threats of blocking reform is simply not an option.”

Campaigners take fish fight to Westminster

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TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall led a march to Westminster on Monday to urge the Government to do more to protect UK seas.

He was accompanied by hundreds of supporters, many in fish-related fancy dress, waving banners and placards that urged ministers  to increase the number of marine conservation areas to give badly damaged habitats and depleted fish stocks a chance to recover.

The march gathered outside the Houses of Parliament, calling for the creation of 127 marine conservation areas. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has so far planned to create 31 sites by the end of this year, but the celebrity chef warns this is not enough.

“This is the sort of opportunity that may not come again,” he says. “We might not have such a vital and appropriate time frame as we’ve got right now to make real changes. If we leave it too much later, too much damage will have been done. It will be hard for a lot of the areas to recover.”

Fish fighters march on Parliament

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Celebrity chef and food writer Fearnley-Whittingstall will be leading a march on Parliament at noon on Monday, 25 February, to persuade ministers to put in place a wider network of marine conservation zones, where fishing would be effectively banned.

The seas around the UK cover 700,000km and yet only 8km are fully protected from all forms of fishing. Less than 10km are protected from the destruction that is caused to the seabed by the heavy iron teeth that are used to dredge for scallops and the metal chains of beam trawls.

The  march is calling for the creation of 127 marine conservation areas and will set off  from the London Aquarium at 12 noon and will be filmed for his new  Channel 4 TV series, Hugh’s Fish Fight. Organisations taking part will include Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Society, Sealife and the British Sub-Aqua Club.

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The chef, who started his Fish Fight campaign two years ago, will highlight the destruction of our seabeds in his new series, starting tonight at 9pm. The first episode will show how the huge metal ploughs used on scallop dredges tear up all life, rocks and seaweeds on the seabed. Booths supermarket has already pledged to stop selling dredged scallops and will stock only scallops that have been dived for, which does not damage the surrounding area.

Fearnley-Whittingstall is hoping to replicate the success of his campaign against the discarding of healthy fish at sea under the EU’s fishing quotas. Discarding results in about half of the fish in the North Sea alone being thrown back dead, even though they are edible and healthy, because they are caught by vessels that have exceeded their quota. He has got the support of celebrities like Stephen Fry, Coldplay and Ricky Gervais, as well as several supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer.

Landmark victory for fish fighters across Europe

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The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to ban the wasteful practice of throwing away fish at sea in a victory for green groups after more than two years of campaigning.

There are hopes that these changes to the controversial EU Common Fisheries Policy can become law by next year. MEPs voted for the reform package by 502 votes to 137 after being bombarded with complaints, following a series of high-profile campaigns from environmentalists, fishermen and celebrity chefs.

Campaigners are angry that EU boats in the North Sea have to throw away up to half of what they catch to stay within their quotas. The reforms package include:

  • Rebuilding fish stocks to sustainable levels
  • Setting catch limits in line with the best scientific advice
  • Banning discards
  • Priority access to those who fish in environmentally beneficial ways
  • Tightening the rules on how EU vessels fish in distant waters.

“This is really excellent news,” said the chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who spearheaded a Fish Fight campaign that mobilised hundreds of thousands of people to oppose discards. “It was a nerve-racking morning. We’re really grateful to the thousands of Fish Fighters across Europe who emailed MEPs over the last few days, and helped to head off a last-ditch attempt by some politicians to fatally weaken the discards ban.”

Greenpeace welcomed the MEPs’ vote, saying the reforms were a “momentous shift away from overfishing” and would help to promote small-scale and low-impact fishing methods, which usually cause less environmental harm.

A Greenpeace spokesperson said: “National governments that stand in the way of reform, like Spain and France, will find it increasingly hard to act as proxies for a handful of powerful companies, with no concern for the long-term wellbeing of the oceans or the majority of fishermen.”