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Fisheries MEPs pave the way for first discard ban in the EU
Fisheries Committee MEPs backed a proposed ban on discarding unwanted fish of 35 species caught in the Skagerrak (between the North Sea and the Baltic) in a vote on Tuesday. The ban, to take effect gradually between 2014 and 2016, would be enforced with a remote electronic monitoring system.
The discard ban regulation would oblige fishing vessels 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.
At the same time, the proposals drafted by Werner Kuhn (EPP, DE), aim to fill a gap left by the revocation of an international fisheries agreement on the Skagerrak, inter alia by harmonising EU rules with those of Norway, where a discard ban is already in place.
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.
Plans to ban discards in all EU waters were backed by the European Parliament in a plenary vote on the new Common Fisheries Policy in February. Experience in the Skagerrak should provide useful lessons on how best to enforce the obligation to land all catches made in EU waters.
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, and 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.
The draft report on certain technical and control measures in the Skagerrak is scheduled for a first reading vote at the April plenary session. The regulation will then need the member states' green light to enter into force from 2014, possibly after reaching a first-reading agreement with Parliament.