Fish stocks “at risk” due to dodging of discard ban

Poor implementation of the EU fish discards ban has placed fish stocks at risk, according to a House of Lords sub-committee.

The EU landing obligation – also called the discard ban – aims to protect fish stocks, and the wider marine environment, by requiring fishers to land all fish caught (and be counted against their quota) rather than discarding unwanted fish overboard. It has been introduced gradually since 2015 and came into force in full in January.

However, rather than protect fish stocks the law seems to have resulted in more fish being wasted, according to the House of Lords EU energy and environment sub-committee.

In a report published this week, the peers found that the rules seem to have had little impact.

They heard, for example, that if the obligation were being complied with, some vessels would have to stop fishing half way through the year, and that storage facilities and supply chains would struggle to cope with amount of undersized fish being brought to shore. However, “neither of these eventualities have occurred, suggesting fishers are continuing to discard fish illegally”.

The report also raised concerns that the government “does not know the extent of compliance” with the ban. “In failing to collect data on selectivity, in failing to assess compliance before granting quota uplifts, and in failing to require remote electronic monitoring, government is allowing this now illegal fishing practice to go unchecked,” said sub-committee chair Lord Teverson.

As well as tracking selectivity improvements in the UK fleet, the government must also mandate the use of remote electronic monitoring on all vessels fishing in UK waters after Brexit, the peers said. Bycatch reduction plans must also be implemented “as quickly as possible”.

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