EFTTA backing for Hugh’s Fish Fight
When award-winning UK TV personality, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, arrived in Brussels last month, it marked the culmination of an extraordinary five months for a campaign that could have far-reaching consequences for European sea fishing, writes EFTTA’s lobbyist in Brussels Jan Kappel.
It is a campaign that EFTTA is proud to be supporting.
Hugh’s Fish Fight – a British television award winner – aims to stop the enormous numbers of fish that are discarded dead or dying back into the North Sea every year. Since he began his campaign on British TV in January, Hugh has gathered thousands of supporters from all around Europe.
He has created an astonishing momentum behind his campaign – so much so that when he arrived in Brussels he carried with him a petition signed by more than 67,500 people.
Hugh is clear about his mission. He says: “It is to end the insanely wasteful practice of discarding thousands of tonnes of fine, edible fish at sea. The activity is scandalous.”
The facts speak for themselves. Globally, about 8% of catches are discarded. But in the North Sea as much as 40% to 60% of catches are believes to be dumped back into the water either dead or dying.
Worse, discarded fish are not counted against the fishermen’s quotas.
The EU management system is based on landings not catches. Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Russia have discard bans in place, but in the EU you are free to dump at sea whatever you don’t find a use for.
Why does EFTTA agree with Hugh that this has to change? There are several reasons, but most importantly, of course, is that we need to achieve healthy fish stocks in our part of the world. That is very much needed as 80% of the commercially exploited European fish stocks are overfished.
But there is more to our support than that. The discards amount to more than the total number of fish anglers remove from the sea. But, because we anglers take fish from the sea, we have been dragged into the discard and overfishing debate.
At ever-increasing speed we are being denied access to fishing spots and presented with all kinds of measures to limit our fishing for no good reason other than a failure of EU and national commercial fisheries management systems.
So there is another more selfish reason to join the campaign: less discards means better mortality data, means better management of the commercial sector, means less pressure on the recreational angling sector.
Campaigns like Hugh’s Fish Fight are needed to generate the political will to solve the discard problem. If politicians don’t feel the pressure from the public, history tells us that not much will happen – if anything at all.
We just have to be careful that we are not caught unfairly in the discard debate and made part of the problem.
Some scientists don’t make a difference between fish anglers release and commercial discards. EFTTA has made sure to counter these conclusions. The term discards does not belong to the recreational fisheries vocabulary. Anglers don’t discard fish. They release fish – obligatory or voluntarily. Fish released by anglers are widely accepted as a positive contribution to conservation of fish stocks and we want that still to be the case.
Visit www.fishfigh.net to learn more.