0919 GMT January 23, 2020
Despite its enormous popularity with the British public, the measure has been poorly implemented in the UK and the result is more fish being needlessly wasted.
The implementation of the discards ban has been ‘inadequate’ according to Lord Teverson, speaking to the Guardian after a report on the issue that he co-wrote. A committee of the House of Lords criticized the government in a report for failing to put the ban into proper effect.
If the discard ban — which was the subject of a media campaign and petition to the House of Commons – had been properly put into effect, then fishermen would have been expected to land numerous small fish which were ineligible to be landed under the EU’s fishing laws.
However, very few such fish were landed, leading the Lords to conclude in two reports that the ban had been widely flouted.
The wasteful practice of discarding edible fish at sea has been one of the key charges levelled against the EU’s common fisheries policy, which requires fishing vessels to throw back fish if they have already exceeded their quota for certain species.
The practice of discarding, which has resulted in an estimated one million tons of fish a year being thrown back into the water, dead or in too poor a condition to carry on living, has been targeted for reform since 2011, when the EU said it would phase it out over several years in order to conserve fish populations.
But fishermen still have an incentive to carry on with the practice, because it generates more money and allows them to spend longer at sea. That incentive must be countered by having vessels carry electronic monitoring equipment — previously very expensive but now relatively cheap — as a matter of course, said Teverson.
“This is needed,” he told the Guardian. “It is possible to do it now.”
Electronic monitoring is seen by fishing NGOs as the best way of enforcing the rules. The practice involves closed-circuit TV and weighing of fish as they are landed.