WMN opinion: Discards deal a step in the right direction for fishing
Whichever side of the conservation fence you sit on, the fish discard system made no sense. At all.
For the combined might of Europe’s finest policy making minds to preside over a system that saw one quarter of all fish landed thrown back into the sea – dead – was clearly barmy.
And because of the crazy system, most people will today welcome the news that the EU has agreed to ban the dumping of dead fish back in the sea.
That it took “marathon” talks to get there matters not. The deal is done, and the madness of wasting
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vast amounts of perfectly edible fish will end in
a phased implementation programme that will run between 2014 and 2016.
The devil, as always though, will be in the detail.
Both fisheries minister Richard Benyon and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall welcomed yesterday’s deal but added a note of caution. And well they might. It seems the deal struck is weaker than hoped, and could be harder to enforce.
If any one issue can be said to have united anti-EU sentiment here in the South West it is the way Brussels has been allowed to wrest control of British fishing grounds away from national control.
Quotas set in Europe which take little or no account of local conditions and the health of local stocks infuriate Westcountry fishermen.
The demise of discards will give belief that some rational action and policy will now be agreed.
Opinions on the health of fish stocks vary, depending on which scientist you listen to and what species you are concerned for.
But top-down management of fisheries by remote officials has clearly failed, even EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki admitted the Common Fisheries Policy was “broken”.
Earlier this month MEPs backed the biggest reform plan in the history of the CFP vowing to restore fish stocks after years of failed conservation measures and to return profitability to fishing communities.
The ending of discards was crucial to that plan, and yesterday’s deal was another major step forward.
The next real test for the reforms will be the awarding of control of fishing stocks to regional fishing bodies.
The devil here is again in the detail. The size and scale of region has yet to be agreed. So Mr Benyon is right on two counts. Yesterday’s agreement is good news, and there is much more work to be done.
The gathering storm of public opinion and concern over the quality of our food claimed a major victory yesterday as Britain’s largest supermarket pledged to bring the sourcing of its meat closer to home.
Prompted by the horsemeat scandal, campaigns like the Western Morning News’s own Buy Local drive have sprung up across the country. They have received immense support, and the Tesco commitment is a very welcome response.