No disguising the issue of discards – Fishupdate.com

No disguising the issue of discards Published:  06 November, 2008

Resolving the issue of discards in European fisheries is key to

recovering depleted fish stocks such as cod, a new WWF report reveals.

As important negotiations take place on fishing opportunities for 2009,

the report suggests the EU take the lead from Norway on how to protect

and manage cod in a sustainable manner, thus ensuring a successful and

profitable fishery in the future.

Last year more than 8,000 tonnes of North Sea cod was thrown overboard

by fishermen. WWF, the conservation organisation believes fragile North Sea cod stocks will only recover through implementing mandatory

technical measures, including the use of more selective gears to avoid

catching cod in the first place, and the avoidance of fishing in areas

with large concentrations of cod.

The WWF Norway report shows that a number of these technical measures

to reduce fish mortality are already being put into practice in Norway

with positive results. These include a ban on discards, the mandatory

use of selective fishing gears such as sorting grids to minimise cod

bycatch, and the closure of key spawning areas. Consequently, the

Barents Sea now holds the largest cod stock in the world, providing

stability to the Norwegian fishing industry.

Giles Bartlett, fisheries policy officer at WWF-UK said: ‘Cod stocks

can recover if the right measures are applied so we need real political leadership to tackle the situation with the urgency that is needed.

Norway shows us that sustainable and profitable fisheries can work and

it is about time the EU followed their lead. We can no longer rely on

voluntary measures to solve the problems of discards.’

Discarding is a huge waste and causes serious decline in a number of

fish stocks. For North Sea cod it is one of the prime factors hindering the recovery of the stocks. Scientists report that discarding of North Sea cod increased to 40 per cent in 2007 and is expected to be higher in 2008.

The EU has failed to introduce its proposed regulation on discards,

making it even more imperative that the issue is addressed through the

annual EU Norway bilateral agreement and subsequently the European

Commission’s fishing quota proposals for 2009.

In 2007 European ministers agreed an 11 per cent increase in quota for

North Sea cod based on early signs of stock recovery but Ministers

failed to put in place compulsory measures that mean young fish stay in the sea to reproduce. Only voluntary measures put forward by the fishing industry were agreed as a means of reducing the dramatic amount of unwanted cod removed from the sea and discarded in a range of associated fisheries.

Giles Bartlett adds: ‘This year fishermen were given the opportunity

to prove they can fish more selectively and sustainably. But scientific advice shows that the rate of discarding is too high and the voluntary bycatch reduction measures used so far have not radically reduced the problem.

Norway’s successful fisheries give them an opportunity to present a strong case for tackling discards at the annual EU Norway bilateral negotiations. North Sea cod stocks are still in recovery so it’s vital that other European countries take note and implement the

solutions that are proven to reduce discards.’

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