Discards are discarded in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy

The European Commission is expected to announce a ban on discards during Wednesday this week as part of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The shake-up brings victory for TV chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who fronted the Big Fish Fight campaign along with a number of other celebrity chefs including Gordon Ramsey, and Heston Blumenthal. The campaign gained over 700,000 signatures of support and was backed by London’s Selfridges in a bid to raise awareness about the increasing decline of ocean fish stocks.

Currently under the CFP, fishermen are forced to throw back millions of tonnes of dead fish, known as discards, into the sea each year in order to meet legal quotas on size and species. The quotas cause up to 80% of catches to be discarded including edible and often endangered species in order to meet the current rules. Such unsustainable practice has been blamed for the severe decline in North Sea fish stocks which have plummeted to less than 10% of post-war levels, driving species such as Cod and Haddock to breaking point.

The reform will see the end of such wasteful methods with the scrapping of discards. The new plans are also expected to adopt a more scientific approach to the management of fish stocks, with the aim to limit catches to a sustainable level by 2015. Following the announcement, MEP’s will have a year to consult on the plans before they become legislation in 2012. The Commission admits that the reform – which is the biggest in 40 years, will mean some job losses. Yet they argue that the cost of no action will be far greater, and state support will be given to those affected.