Brixham beam trawlers in trials to show it is possible to fish without discards
BRIXHAM fishermen have taken part in a series of trials to show it is possible to fish without discards.
Five beam trawlers from the port were part of the recent Marine Management Organisation trials which saw seven boats take part in the South West and 12 in the North Sea.
The latest MMO report now reveals that discards of important stocks such as sole, cod, plaice, megrim and anglerfish have been drastically reduced in the trials.
The report detailed how the practice could be an alternative method of managing fisheries, at a time when the Common Fisheries Policy is undergoing reform.
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The MMO is operating the trials on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as part of the UK's initiative to tackle the problem of discarding fish — where fish are thrown away at sea if they are too small or there is no quota left for a particular species.
The MMO's report detailed how the practice could be an alternative method of managing fisheries, at a time when the Common Fisheries Policy is undergoing reform.
The trials encouraged fishermen to fish more selectively and land all of what they catch.
James Cross, MMO chief executive, said: "This is really good news for all those interested in a long-term, sustainable future for our fishing industry.
"By working with fishermen to develop innovative solutions, we hope to reduce waste of our marine resources while increasing healthy seas and fish stocks for the future.
"The excellent results of the latest trials show how important working together can be for finding alternative ways of managing fisheries."
Capt Jim Portus, chief executive of the South Western Fish Producer Organisation, said Brixham skippers who had taken part in the trials had been pleased with the results as they had caught fewer under-size fish and caught cleaner fish of a better quality.
The report found that while discard rate is normally at eight per cent in the area fished by Brixham fishermen, it dropped to 0.2 per cent during the MMO trials.
Seven vessels took part in the trials in the South West along with 12 in the North Sea.
The boats were not permitted to discard any of the species in the trials, including those below the minimum size.
They had to land all of the fish of these species that they caught so they all counted against their quota.
Data from onboard monitoring equipment, including CCTV cameras, was used to check the conditions of the trial were adhered to.
Catches of under-sized fish in the trial were also low, suggesting that boats are fishing more selectively.
However, Capt Portus said while the report's findings were good news for the fishermen involved and could lead to more beam trawlers in the Bay adopting similar fishing gear as used during the trials, he urged caution.
He said small scale trials should not form the basis of a new fisheries policy at European level.
Capt Portus added: "While the results are good news for the Brixham fishermen who took part, it would be a sad day if the whole common fisheries policy was based on a small trial.
"Fishing gear, fishing boats, sea beds and fish stocks are not the same throughout Europe.
"The trials need to be extended to other fisheries. I would hope that they will be carried out next year because a decision will have to be made in 2013.
"I hope this decision will be made on bigger and better trials not just this one."
Fisheries minister Richard Benyon said: "I am keen for these trials to be rolled out to other fisheries in advance of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.
"Discarding perfectly good fish is a waste of our natural resources.
"My aim is to create sustainable fisheries around the UK which are good for the environment and for fishermen at the same time."