- Bans on fish discards have been a focus of recent headlines.
- The current EU Common Fisheries Policy is designed to prevent fleets from exceeding their catch quota by requiring them to discard excess catch, or fish species which fall outside of their quota. In the North Sea it is expected that half of the catch is discarded, most of which may be dead.
- The fight against fish discards comes at a time when new reports suggest that overfishing costs the EU £2.7bn each year. It is suggested by that decreasing fish discards and promoting change in consumer behaviour, fisheries could become more sustainable by “making the most” of their catches.
- However, there are clear concerns over implementation. Changes to the Common Fisheries Policy are likely to require extensive stakeholder engagement and mechanisms to protect the exploitation of discards. A recent reminder of exploitation is the £63m black fish fraud, involving seventeen skippers overfishing mackerel and herring by evading EU quotas.
As food prices rise, we may see a turn to the black market not only on land but also at sea. Whilst discard bans may offer promise of sustainable fishing, these may need to be considered in line with other trends such as the rise of black markets and quota evasion, to ensure that practices are truly sustainable and that food safety/ quality is not compromised. Extensive stakeholder consultation will be important in ensuring any changes to policy are viable, and resilient to exploitation.