Monday, 24 January 2011

‘Fish fight’ campaign & overexploitation of fish stocks

Labour has welcomed the ‘Fish Fight’ campaign as drawing attention to the scandal of discarded fish.


I share the concerns of many and support this campaign which seeks to end the scandal of dead fish being thrown back into the sea and encourages people to make informed decisions about the fish they buy.

Labour Ministers led the battle for fisheries reform in Europe when we were in government. I want to see the new minister finish the job that we started and end the disgrace of discards. It is a scandal that so much fish is discarded due to the perverse rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Fish are discarded, either because they are too small, not marketable, or because the fishermen do not have a quota to land them. Discarding dead fish can have a damaging effect on the marine environment.

The EU Commission estimates that only 40 per cent of EU fishing stocks have been fished sustainably. Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is essential to improve the current annual quota system and to ensure that fish populations remain sustainable. Fish importers must also play their part in eradicating illegal fish from the market and promoting sustainable sourcing.

Fishing is a major industry in the UK. Reforms also need to create and maintain a prosperous and efficient fishing industry and protect vulnerable fishing - dependent communities. In the Scottish fishing industry, CCTV cameras have been installed on boats to allow fishermen to "catch less and land more". It is important to try out new ideas like this and to work in partnership with fishermen to ensure a sustainable future for the industry.

My Labour colleagues and I will continue to press the Tory-led government to lead the way in Europe on discards and fisheries reform. Thank you again for contacting me on this important issue.

Background

* The Common Fisheries Policy was set up by the EU to reduce the negative impacts of fisheries on the environment and preserve the ecological balance of our oceans in the interest of the future generations.

* Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall is currently leading the ‘Big Fish Fight campaign’ in conjunction with Channel four, which, among other things, has revealed that the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy have led to half of all fish caught in the North Sea being thrown overboard.

* The EU is currently considering reforms of the CFP for 2012, which presents a once in a decade opportunity to transform the way we manage our fisheries. If successful, we will see healthier oceans, abundant fish stocks and a sustainable livelihood for many of our coastal communities and the fishing industry.

What are the other parties doing?

· In Scotland, the SNP wants to scrap the Common Fisheries Policy which would lead to a free-for-all and, in consequence, lead to a crisis of fisheries management as seen in Iceland and the Faroes Islands.