‘Unacceptable’ side-effects of discard ban

Skippers are calling on newly-elected MEPs to think again on crucial elements of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.

With just 18 months until the discards ban is imposed on the whitefish fleet, concern is growing at the lack of progress in finding practical ways to implement the legislation.

Islanders believe that rules drafted by a well-funded green lobby hundreds of miles away in Brussels are ill suited to Shetland’s highly productive fishing grounds, and that the consequences could be extremely damaging to the local community.

Shetland Fishermen's Association chief Simon Collins.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief Simon Collins.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins said: “The Shetland economy is heavily dependent upon fisheries, with catching and aquaculture accounting for one third of GDP – a much greater share than oil.

“There’s not one fisherman in Shetland who wants to throw away good fish, and the sooner we can eliminate discards the better.

“But the rules have to be workable, otherwise our boats will be placed in an impossible situation. Business failures would have a huge knock-on effect on a tiny island community where the options for alternative employment are extremely limited.”

Mr Collins said Shetland had a thriving and extremely diverse fishery and fishermen could be proud of their record in fishing responsibly and sustainably.

“It was never the intention of policymakers to destroy communities like ours. We would also point out that one of the primary aims of the CFP, written into the legislation alongside the discard ban, is to generate ‘economic, social and economic benefits,” he added.

“With so much at stake for jobs and our island life, it would be entirely proper and reasonable for the new crop of parliamentarians in Brussels to take a fresh, commonsense look at discard ban implementation.

“We all want to eliminate discards. But there is no virtue in persisting with rules that don’t work, especially when their side-effects are completely unacceptable.”

The SFA is highlighting a clause in the new CFP stating: “Small offshore islands which are dependent on fishing should, where appropriate, be especially recognised and supported in order to enable them to survive and prosper.”

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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11 comments

  1. Andy Williamson

    I would be interested to know what part of the current proposals are unworkable? For example why can’t all of Shetlands discards be sent to the fish meal plant and turned into something useful? Simply throwing undersized unwanted fish back into the sea is incredibly wasteful.

    Reply
  2. Henry Appleby

    Totally agree with Andy, if all fish caught were landed and what wasn’t or couldn’t be sold on the market each day was sent to a fishmeal and oil facility to be rendered into high value raw materials for animal feed you could see millions of pounds being generated. If the rendering facility were a national or industry owned asset the profits could be put back into conservation and stock enhancement measures to ensure the continued sustainability of the nations fisheries.

    Reply
  3. Adam Scott

    Do juvenile or young fish taste better than older fish? I like lamb but not mutton so If the same applies to fish might actually prefer to eat baby cod or haddock.

    Reply
  4. Richard Hogan

    Surely if all the fish are landed which are currently discarded the price of fish generally would fall. For a hard pressed consumer like me I’m all for it, land everything and let the market adjust to the extra volume.

    Reply
  5. Simon Smith

    As Richard points out perhaps this is why fishermen and fish buyers do not like the thought of the changes to discard rules, the risk to the vast profits they make from our oceans.

    Reply
  6. Douglas Wilson

    Simon can you answer Andy Williamson’s question about why exactly the current proposals don’t work for shetland fishermen? I’m really interested to know the answer.

    Reply
  7. John Tulloch

    Readers with an interest in the future of Shetland’s fishing industry may find the linked article, detailing some questions raised by Bertie Armstrong CEO of the Scottish fishing lobby group SFF and Alex Salmond’s response, which Mr Armstrong has reportedly described as “intimidating”, of interest:

    http://forargyll.com/2014/07/fishermens-chief-has-courage-to-say-he-felt-salmond-response-to-be-intimidatory/

    Reply
    • John Newman

      A very interesting link john and one which yet again shows the SNP as a party which are either unwilling or unable to give any precise detail about their intentions after the referendum vote. Still like a number of other people I am no clearer about what the issues are with the proposed discard ban and how it might affect shetland fishermen. Is anyone able to enlighten me?

      Reply
  8. Rachel Fullerton

    Common sense says discards are wrong so what part of the current rules are unworkable, the article doesn’t say. It’s no use saying something is wrong without suggesting a way to make it better.

    Reply
  9. Bertie McDonald

    The lack of response from fishermen speaks volumes to me…..

    Reply
  10. Billy Fox

    In response to Andy Williamson and Douglas Wilson. It is not just Shetland that will find the discard ban, as proposed, unworkable, but all European Union countries, especially those with a multi-species demersal fishery such as we have in Shetland waters. The difficulty lies with individual species quota sitting alongside a blanket discards ban.

    For example: a white fish boat will fish to these quotas as well as being limited by her allowable days at sea. There is no way of controlling what enters the net and therefore what comes over the side, halfway through the month they reach their quota for, let’s say haddock. This now means they can no longer catch haddock as they cannot land or discard it. They still have significant quota left for other species but cannot fish because the fulfilment of their haddock quota for that month prevents them as they cannot stop haddock entering their net! They have no alternative but to tie up for the rest of the month meaning a loss of earnings on uncaught species for that period, unfulfilled quota cannot be carried over. This loss of earnings is unsustainable and would lead to the eventual demise of our whitefish fleet.

    The irony of the ill-thought out discards ban is that fishermen have been calling for a halt to the wasteful quota system the EU has operated for decades, a system based on what is landed at market rather than what comes over the side. During this time fishermen have landed, for example, small whiting, which they had quota for, while throwing large cod and hake back over the side because they had no quota for it. A heart breaking state of affairs.

    The Eurocrats paid no attention when this madness was continually pointed out resulting in fishermen becoming utterly exasperated and some leaving the industry in despair as they faced a growing bureaucratic mire. Other factors were that scientific evidence on fish stocks and distribution never caught up with the situation at sea as fishermen regularly found abundant stocks where scientists were saying there should be none. The system did not have any flexibility or locally derogated powers to address these disparities resulting in ever more waste of valuable nutritional fish.

    Now as we face the discards ban the EU themselves are struggling on how to implement it. However, what Shetland fishermen have done through the Shetland Fishermen’s Association is draw up a method of implementing a discards ban based on a multi-species management system, as far as I am aware the only association in the EU to have done so. This is proposed under a management unit system that takes proper account of our mixed fisheries and moves us towards a rational ecosystem approach. There is a good deal of detail in the proposal, too much to set out here, but as it is refined I am sure it will be rolled out publicly. A promising aspect is the positive reception in the EU to Shetland’s proposal when it has been presented by our Fishermen’s Association. Relief also I think within the EU that some workable solutions are coming forward for a problem they have been struggling with up till now.

    At the end of the day no consumer or fisherman wants to throw good fish back but this heart breaking situation has been going on for decades. Only now in the face of a high profile media campaign will something be done about it, full credit to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on that score but I believe he too now realises that it must be done in a structured manner to protect the long term future of our stocks and our fishing industry.

    Finally, I write this as we enjoy a buoyant fish catching and aquaculture industry in Shetland worth over £320 million to its economy, far and away our most important. We export annually more produce, mainly seafood, than Orkney and the Western Isles put together, almost on a daily basis approximately 50% or more of what goes south comes from our marine environment. Shetland has always relied on the marine environment for its main economic provision, nothing has changed to this day and it is a resource which if properly managed and looked after will remain so in perpetuity. We must protect it for future generations.

    Billy Fox
    Councillor for Shetland South

    Reply

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