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21 February 2013 09:59:43|News

MEPs back end to fish dumping


The Fisheries Committee of MEPs have backed a proposed ban on discarding unwanted fish in a vote on Tuesday.
The ban will take effect gradually between 2014 and 2016 and will be enforced with a remote electronic monitoring system.
The discard ban regulation would oblige fishing vessels to land all caught fish in order to halt "discards" - the practice of throwing fish back into the sea, usually because they are of an unwanted species or size. Most discarded fish die, which is wasteful and aggravates overfishing.
Overfishing is widely seen as the worst failure of the current CFP, dating from 2002. The new one is to take effect in 2014.
European Commission figures suggest that 80% of Mediterranean stocks and 47% of Atlantic ones are overfished. The reform voted in plenary sets out clear and strong measures to tackle this problem.
"We have shown today that the European Parliament is anything but toothless. We have used our power as a co-legislator, for the first time in fisheries policy, to put a stop to overfishing. Fish stocks should recover by 2020, enabling us to take 15 million tonnes more fish, and create 37,000 new jobs", said fisheries reform rapporteur Ulrike Rodust (S&D, DE). Her report was adopted by 502 votes to 137, with 27 abstentions.
At the same time, the proposals drafted by Werner Kuhn (EPP, DE), aim to fill a gap left by the revocation of an international fisheries agreement on the Skagerrak, inter alia by harmonising EU rules with those of Norway, where a discard ban is already in place.
Remote monitoring by CCTV
To enforce the discard ban, member states would be required to set up a remote electronic monitoring system to supervise fishing in the Skagerrak, which is bound by Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
For the system to work, boats over 12 metres long would have to be equipped with closed circuit TV (CCTV), GPS and transmitting equipment.
Financial aid for this should be granted from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, say MEPs, who also insist that the system should be automated and use image recognition software for better data protection.
Pilot scheme
Plans to ban discards in all EU waters were backed by the European Parliament in a plenary vote on the new Common Fisheries Policy in February. Experience in the Skagerrak should provide useful lessons on how best to enforce the obligation to land all catches made in EU waters
As a previous international agreement on fishing in the Skagerrak no longer applies, boats must abide by the rules of the state in whose territorial waters they are fishing, and harmonising the relevant EU and Norwegian laws should facilitate compliance.
The new measures will apply to all EU member states which have fishing rights in the EU part of the Skagerrak, i.e. boats from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as Denmark,, Sweden and Norway.
The draft report on certain technical and control measures in the Skagerrak is scheduled for a first reading vote at the April plenary session. The regulation will then need the member states' green light to enter into force from 2014, possibly after reaching a first-reading agreement with Parliament.

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