Thanks to your support, 3 years later new legislation, known as The Landing Obligation, was passed to ban the discarding of fish in EU waters - legislation that the UK Government said it fully supported, and would implement and enforce.
Now it has become clear (from the report published today by the House of Lords) that the Government's preparations for the phased-in discards ban are completely inadequate, and their enforcement practically non-existent. Discarding continues largely unchecked in fisheries all around the UK, with potentially dire consequences for the future of our fishing industry.
Monitoring and enforcement under the Landing Obligation is vital to incentivise fishermen to count their catches and use more sustainable gear. And as the pilot schemes (which we filmed in our Fish Fight series) have shown, a complete and total record of catches is entirely achievable through remote electronic monitoring. Done properly, it will lead to better data and improved fisheries management which can deliver better catches, more security for fishermen, and healthy oceans into the future. As long as discarding continue, we simply will not now how many fish are being killed at sea. And we cannot protect our fish stocks without dependable science based on dependable data. Discarding “as usual" could result in the waste of up to half a million tonnes of fish in the North Sea every year. This would not only be a massive step backwards for UK fisheries management, it would be disastrous for fish stocks, our ocean ecosystems, and ultimately for the UK fishing industry.
The Landing Obligation is all about incentivising fishers to avoid catching unwanted fish in the first place - by improving selectivity, using quota swaps, or changing destructive fishing practices. What is really unacceptable here is that DEFRA and the industry has had the best part of 5 years to work on these solutions. The lack of action and enforcement is a huge dereliction of duty to protect our vulnerable oceans and sustainably manage our fisheries. This is a precious public resource which the Government should be looking after. Right now they are failing our fish, our fishermen, and Fish Fighters everywhere - everyone in fact who cares about the future of our oceans. They need to step up and remember their promises - and take action.