In a very welcome move it is expected that EU ministers will ban the horrendous practice of deep sea fishermen being forced to throw fish that do not fit into their allowed quotas back into the sea, with most of the fish already being dead. A hugely wasteful and damaging thing to do as well as a crime against the environment.
The industry throws back about 1 million tons of fish a year in this manner. For example, look at this from STV Lossiemouth, "Scottish vessels were forced to discard 28,000 tonnes of fish in 2009, representing around 25% of the total whitefish catch at a value of around £33million" (local.stv.tv/lossiemouth/news/4345-lochhead-calls-for-an-end-to-fish-discards/). This policy change will be the biggest amendment to fisheries policy in 40 years, but that it has taken this long for the EU to get to this position is also a crime in its own right.
The way ahead maybe to force fisherman to keep and land everything they catch. But this, say the fishermen, may mean a real possibility of returning from a voyage with a virtually worthless catch putting livelihoods at risk.
Fishing is in some ways different from other industries in that the production of the deep sea fish is totally down to nature. The fish are also free to go where they will with no fences to keep them in. Because of that fishermen will just take what is there where they fish, they do not cultivate or feed them. Currently they can also keep throwing fish out until they get the quota of the fish they need.
When a farmer or factory owner does their job they have to provide the materials or food for livestock and can control how productive their farm or factory is. Fisherman individually do not have this level of control, they farm what God puts there and hope to get there and fill their holds before anyone else.
As the EU casts about for a new policy they will of course do the usual and be listening to those that shout loudest and try to apportion the best quotas and trade based on their back room dealings to put employment ahead of environment.
A better idea would be to apportion them as to the needs of their populations. Let's see quotas being issued to countries on the basis of a combination of population size and percentage of coastline length when compared to total border length. So that a large population country with a higher proportion of coastline as a border would get the largest quotas.
Then we need to dictate maximum fishing vessel hold size, maximum days at sea and limit licences strictly as well as fitting vessels with tracking and monitoring devices. With a beefed up naval patrol vessel presence with monitoring, board and search powers we could see a sustainable fishing industry develop.
Yes it will mean many fishermen going to the wall but, what do we want, the final hoovering up of the oceans or a proper well controlled and sustainable fishing industry?