Scotland's fisheries minister Richard Lochhead is right to condemn the shocking waste of 33 million worth of whitefish dumped dead back into the North Sea last year (your report, 29 November). More than a quarter of all fish caught worldwide, including over one million tons of healthy fish discarded each year in EU waters, are dumped dead back into the sea.
This criminal insanity has become the unacceptable face of the EU's common fisheries policy imposed upon fishermen by Brussels. Fishermen who land undersized or "out of quota" fish are prosecuted and could end up with a criminal conviction and a hefty fine. In an industry already constrained by limitations on the number of days that can be spent at sea, time spent catching and sorting fish of no commercial value is regarded by fishermen as valuable time lost.
Instead of being compelled to dump fish over the side, fishermen should be compelled to land everything. It would become an offence to discard fish and every vessel should be fitted with CCTV to monitor compliance. Fishermen should be incentivised to end discards by rewarding them with extra quota.
Such a system would provide two immediate advantages for the industry. First, scientists would get a much clearer picture of what fish were being caught and where. Such information would enable more accurate conservation and recovery plans to be devised. Also, when young, undersize fish are landed, fisheries inspectors could immediately call for a temporary closure of specific fishing grounds, to avoid further pressure on immature stocks.
Second, undersize fish and other species, which previously would have been discarded, could be sold to the processing sector, which is desperate for raw material to supply the fishmeal and fish oil industry. The EU's burgeoning aquaculture sector relies on fishmeal as a staple diet for farmed fish. The fishmeal industry would be prepared to pay for such uncommercial fish at a price of around 50 a ton, which is too little to encourage targeting these species, but too much to encourage continued dumping into the sea.
STRUAN STEVENSON, MEP