Catches of unwanted fish and their discard at sea constitutes a substantial waste of natural resources and poses a serious problem to the long-term sustainability of EU fisheries policy. This is why the European Parliament adopted yesterday, in plenary session, a report by Søren Gade (Renew Europe, Denmark), which backs the objectives of the landing obligation, recalling that it is not a goal in itself, but a tool to drive improvements in fishing and operational behaviour, incentivise the development and usage of more selective gears to minimise unwanted catches, and improve catch documentation for a better understanding and scientific assessment of fish stocks.
Rapporteur Søren Gade, member of the parliamentary committee on fisheries (PECH), said:
” I am very happy that the Parliament today sends a strong signal to the Commission ahead of its evaluation of the CFP. We need to support measures that increase selectivity, listen to the European fishers and finally we need a thorough assessment of the implications of the landing obligation. This report underlines this along with other important points. Now it is up to the Commission to include the Parliament's recommendations – Renew Europe will keep an eye on this and look forward to the work ahead”.
Outlined by the 2013 reform of the CFP, and fully applicable since 2019, the landing obligation continues to raise concerns within the fishing industry, particularly due to the lack of adequate infrastructure in ports, the increase in operating costs that this rule implies, or the difficulties in obtaining greater selectivity in certain activities.
Renew Europe is fully aware of these issues and - rather than further increasing controls-recommends offering fishing professionals practical and sustainable solutions to put an end to discards at sea, which are detrimental to the preservation of fishery resources and to the European and international objectives to combat overfishing. Member States are also called upon to be more rigorous with regard to this issue.
Among the measures suggested by Mr Gade are: the development of a "discard atlas" to better develop regional plans for bycatch; improvements in ports and the development in a circular economy of alternative channels for the use of unwanted catches, such as fishmeal for animal feed or to serve as bait for trap fishing; the gradual introduction of the obligation, for products imported from third countries, to comply with the same discard policy with a view to eliminating unfair competition for the European fleet.
Mr Gade's report aims to feed the work of the European Commission in its upcoming assessment of the functioning of the Common Fisheries Policy scheduled by the end of 2022.
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