WWF calls on EU to take action on bycatches Published: 18 December, 2006
WITH the annual December Fisheries Council due to start in Brussels this week, WWF is recommending that all fisheries with high bycatch should be required to use technical measures – such as sorting grids and escape panels – to increase the selectivity of their fishing gear. The organisation is also calling for bycatch quotas.
In a statement issued today, WWF said every year for the last 5 years, scientists have advised that the cod fisheries in the North Sea, West of Scotland and Irish Sea be closed to restore stocks.
“This advice has consistently been ignored by Ministers,” the statement said. “Indeed for the past 15 years, political pressure has led to total allowable catches (TACs) being set an average of 30% above the recommendations made by the scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES).
“To compound the madness, despite cod stocks in the North Sea being well below minimum safe precautionary levels, tens of thousands of tonnes of cod are caught and thrown back dead or dying each year in nets targeting other species.”
WWF says, in particular, there is often a substantial bycatch of cod by Scampi fisheries (Nephrops) due to the small mesh size of the nets. It claims considerable numbers of fish are caught as bycatch, up to 70% of which are discarded as the fish are below the minimum landing size. According to WWF, off the coast of Norway 61% of the total cod catch by scampi nets was discarded between 1995 and 2000. Indeed it is estimated that the entire North Sea scampi fishery could account for almost half of cod removed from the water.
This issue is making cod recovery fail said Dr Tom Pickerell, Fisheries Policy Officer for WWF. We cant just reduce the total allowable catch, this will only lead to more cod being thrown back dead. Discarding is not a new problem, the solutions are there, but we need political will to implement them.
WWF said around half of all plaice caught are discarded overboard, usually dead, as a result of bycatch and that the North Sea plaice and sole fishery, which accounts for the vast majority of catches, is the most wasteful of all. According to a 2000 report, up to 80% of the plaice catch is discarded in some areas.
Commenting, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, alternative celebrity chef said: Soon cod and chips, our national dish, will have to be imported as we cant catch enough cod off our coast for fishermen to make a living. This shows the extraordinary mismanagement of our seas with the majority of stocks being overfished.
If the fisheries collapse then it is not just the fishermen that will suffer. The environment will suffer as fish are brought from further a field, chefs and the public will suffer as we will no longer be able to find high quality, freshly-caught fish on our doorstep.
Antony Worrall Thompson, celebrity chef said: “Destructive fisheries policies have massively damaged the UK’s marine environment, not just the fish stocks but their habitats and other species found in the same area. If this mismanagement continues we will end up eating jelly fish because there will be no fish left. I don’t know any recipes for jelly fish!”
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