Fish dumping sparked international incident Published: 14 August, 2008
SHOCKING film of a Shetland fishing boat dumping up to five tonnes of white fish over the side in the North Sea has sparked an international incident with Norway, in whose waters the fish were caught.
Shetland’s newest white fish boat Prolific was filmed by the Norwegian
coastguard offloading the fish after the vessel had crossed into UK waterson 2 August, as it is illegal to dump fish in Norway.
The film was shown to angry fishing communities in northern Norway, where the fisheries minister said she would lobby the European Union to change the law on discards so every fish caught in Norwegian waters had to belanded.
Yesterday (Wednesday) Mark Anderson, skipper of the Prolific’s sister boat Copious, returned to Shetland after five weeks at sea, saying that he had heard of but not seen the video footage, which shows dead fish being dumped directly into the sea from the hold and from boxes on the deck. He said the vast majority of the fish that was dumped by the Prolific was not cod, as reported in the national media, but low value coley or saithe. He said it was not too small to land, but they would not have received any money so there was no point in bringing it ashore and losing part of their fishing quota.
Mr Anderson condemned the European quota rules which force fishing boats to dump vast quantities of fish by only giving permission to land small quantities. ‘The majority of what we dumped was small coley and there was a lot of small hake. Cod was a very minute quantity,’ he said. ‘This is all about quota management. They give us so little that we have to do crazy things just to make a living. Two years ago when we came with the Copious the quotas were better, but what they have done is whittled it away. ‘It was on the up for a short period of time, but they cut a few quotas and it becomes an absolute nightmare again.’
Two years ago Mr Anderson launched the Copious, the first white fish boat to be built in Shetland for many years, marking a sea change in the fortunes of the local white fish industry after a long period of decommissioning which halved the size of the islands’ fleet.
Since then another three white fish boats have been added to the Shetland fleet, the latest being the Prolific built in Whitby where it was launched in April this year. The Prolific is a pair trawler working with the Copious. After seeing the coastguard footage, Norwegian minister for fisheries and coastal affairs Helga Pedersen said she would demand EU fishing policy be changed and wanted to force any boat fishing in Norwegian waters to land their catch without dumping it first.
Last night Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief executive Hansen Black said the Prolific crew had no choice but to dump their catch.
‘He was fishing in the Norwegian sector when he caught a shot of saithe. He didn’t have a quota for it so he couldn’t retain it on board, he couldn’t dump it in the Norwegian sector. The only thing he could legally do was go outside Norwegian waters and discard the fish,’ Mr Black said. He added the two boats had steamed 100 miles away in search of a mixed fishery, hoping not to land any more saithe.
Norway and the EU have a reciprocal agreement where boats can fish in each other’s waters, but Shetland vessels rarely take up the offer which is popular with fishermen in the north east of Scotland.
Norway has a ‘no discard’ policy, but local fishermen do not believe it is strictly adhered to and is more of a green smokescreen. They believe the Norwegian government is using the film footage to enhance their own environmental reputation.
The fishing industry lobbies for higher quotas, saying this would reduce the level of dumping at sea. Until five years ago the dumping issue was tackled by illegal ‘black fish’landings, but these have been virtually eliminated in the UK through a system of registration to track fish from the moment they leave the boat.
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