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Fisheries: Parliament votes in favour of first EU discard ban

MEPs voted on Tuesday to adopt a ban on discarding unwanted fish of 35 species caught in the Skagerrak (between the North Sea and the Baltic). The ban, to take effect gradually between 2014 and 2016, would be enforced with a remote electronic monitoring system.

"On 1 November 2012  Norway denounced the international fisheries agreement of 1986 with the EU for the Skagerrak. Since Norway has a landing obligation for all catches, we need these new rules - but we also need them because the practice of discards is irresponsible," said Werner Kuhn (EPP, DE) after the vote.

Under the discard ban, fishing vessels would be obliged 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.

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 Parliament in a vote on the new Common Fisheries Policy in February. Experience in the Skagerrak should provide useful lessons for this.

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. 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.

Next steps

European Parliament negotiators will now discuss the proposal with the member states in order to reach an agreement.

Further information