Discards a “massive waste of previous food and economic resource.”

With renewed focus this week through campaigning chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s TV programme on the scandalous waste caused by fish discards, Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead has highlighted the efforts of Scotland to tackle the issue.

Richard Lochhead said: “The practice of discarding fish back into the sea, dead, is largely enforced on our fishermen by the EU’s broken Common Fisheries Policy. This is a massive waste of a precious food and economic resource and flies in the face of Scotland’s attempts to manage fish stocks sustainably.

“On the European stage Scotland is speaking out the loudest against the discarding of marketable fish. In spite of restrictions imposed by EU policies, Scotland has pioneered ‘catch quotas’, whereby fishermen land all the fish they catch without wasteful discards, winning plaudits across Europe.

“We have been able to expand our catch quota trials this year – however it is a travesty that Scotland is being prevented from including all interested vessels in a scheme that is all about reducing discards.

“While I am continuing to pursue dividends for a Scottish fleet that is bending over backwards to adopt new conservation practices, discards highlight that a return of powers over fisheries policy to Scotland is more urgent than ever.”

In 2009, Scottish vessels were forced by the Common Fisheries Policy to discard almost 28,000 tonnes of fish, around a quarter of the whitefish catch, valued at £33 million.

The Scottish Government had pressed the EU to allow all interested vessels to take part in a second catch quota scheme for 2011, where vessels can land, rather than be forced to discard, an extra amount equal to 12 per cent of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for cod. A limited expansion of the catch quota trials been agreed, which is expected to double the 17 vessels that took part in 2010. The Scottish Government has received 58 applications to participate in 2011 – accounting for around half of the whitefish fleet.

The Scottish Conservation Credits scheme uses more selective fishing gear to avoid catching undersized and unwanted fish in the first place.  Fishermen taking part are rewarded by being able to spend more days fishing at sea for other species.