Around half of the fish caught by fishermen in the North Sea are unnecessarily thrown back into the ocean dead.
The problem is that in a mixed fishery where many different fish live together, fishermen cannot control the species that they catch.
Fishing for one species often means catching another, and if people don’t want them or fishermen are not allowed to land them, the only option is to throw them overboard. The vast majority of these discarded fish will die.
Because discards are not monitored, it is difficult to know exactly how many fish are being thrown away. The EU estimates that in the North Sea, discards are between 40% and 60% of the total catch. Many of these fish are species that have fallen out of fashion: we can help to prevent their discard just by rediscovering our taste for them.
Others are prime cod, haddock, plaice and other popular food species that are “over-quota”. The quota system is intended to protect fish stocks by setting limits on how many fish of a certain species should be caught.
Fishermen are not allowed to land any over-quota fish; if they accidentally catch them – which they can’t help but do – there is no choice but to throw them overboard before they reach the docks.
We need to diversify our fish eating habits, and we need to change policy so that it works for fish, fishermen and consumers.
The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which is the political framework for the quota system, is currently being reformed for 2012. Scientists and environmental groups have suggested a number of ways that that the policy can work to protect fish stocks. Some details of these can be found on our solutions page.
Re-writing the Common Fisheries Policy is going to be an enormously complicated business, and unfortunately there is no one easy solution to ending discards. Many people agree that the answer will lie in a combination of different ideas and policies.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
• Sign up to the campaign on the sign up page. You will be writing directly to policy makers in Europe to let them know that the unnecessary and unethical discarding of perfectly good fish must stop. We can make a difference. If enough people sign up to the campaign, they have to listen to us. We aim to get 250,000 signatures by summer 2011. Click on http://www.fishfight.net/the-campaign/
• Write to your MP to ask them to support the Fish Fight Early Day Motion.
• Expand the selection of fish that you eat by trying some of the lesser-known species of local fish currently being discarded as trash. In the UK, cod, salmon and tuna account for more than 50% of the fish that we consume, and tasty, exciting and nutritious fish such as flounder, dab, coley and pouting are overlooked and thrown away.
• Spread the word, tell all of your friends and family about Hugh’s Fish Fight and get them to sign the campaign too.
Together we can stop this ridiculous carnage. Join Hugh’s Fish Fight now!
Thanks very much,
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall