NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Ministers meet for EU fish discard talks in Brussels

Discards Image copyright BBC news online
Image caption New discard rules start to come into force next year

Fisheries ministers from across the EU are gathering in Brussels to begin to thrash out the rules under which the industry will operate next year.

Much of the discussion will centre on how to deal with a ban on discarding unwanted fish back into the sea.

This will come into force in January for species such as herring and mackerel, and a year later for cod and haddock.

Agreements have already been reached on quota levels.

'Rethink fundamentals'

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "December Council this year is not just important in terms of our usual fishing priorities of getting the fairest quota deals and ensuring no cuts to the number of days fishermen can actually go to sea, it is also hugely significant because the first phase of the landing obligation comes into force early next year.

"Otherwise known as the discard ban, it will fundamentally change the way we fish and as a result we also need to rethink the fundamentals of how we manage fishing.

"The implications of the discard ban will also be felt by Scotland's hugely important onshore supply chain and I will therefore be asking the Scottish Seafood Partnership to assess those implications and to develop a strategy to address any impact."

Public outcry

Fishing boats will be obliged to land unwanted species caught in their nets.

The practice of throwing dead fish back into the sea increased because of strict EU quotas on which fish could be landed, part of efforts to conserve fish stocks.

In 2009, Scottish vessels were forced by the Common Fisheries Policy to discard almost 28,000 tonnes of fish, about a quarter of the white fish catch, valued at £33m.

The practice was changed after public outcry, reflected in TV shows such as Hugh's Fish Fight, presented by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

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