Fearnley-Whittingstall ramps up pressure for discard ban
May 31 2011 Lewis Smith
Some of the fish wasted as discards by the Hastings fleet
Pressure on the European Commission to outlaw fish discarding has mounted with an appeal to the public across the Continent to voice their disgust at the practice.
Celebrity chef High Fearnley-Whittingstall has already won the backing of more than 678,000 people in the UK demanding discards be banned but he is now looking for wider European support.
As he handed a letter to European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki in Brussels demanding discards be banned he launched his Fish Fight campaign in 11 more countries.
Ms Damanaki, who has already proposed a ban on discards as part of a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, welcomed Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall’s European launch and said: “I consider discarding of fish unethical, a waste of natural resources, and a waste of fishermen’s effort.
“Only broad societal awareness and public support can bring about real change in fisheries policy. We need effective campaigns like Hugh’s Fish Fight to wake up people to support change.
“We cannot go with business as usual. This is not an option anymore, for the simple reason that fish stocks are decreasing; we need a real change: to fish less and earn more and we can do that through a better management of our fish stocks and for instance avoiding discards.”
Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall hopes that by making the Fish Fight campaign easily accessible to people living on mainland Europe it will attract enough support to persuade ministers across the Continent of the urgency and importance of the issue. Separate local launches of some of the 11 new Fish Fight campaigns will be held by regional celebrities.
The UK, France, Germany and Denmark have already reached an accord on discards and want to see them banned using the introduction of a catch quota system in which every fish caught is landed and a fishery is shut down once the quota has been reached for one of the species in it.
Other fishing nations are less eager to see a complete discard ban introduced or are holding out for different quota systems, such as the days at sea system favoured by Spain.
The Fish Fight campaign was originally launched in the UK last autumn, with a series of broadcasts on Channel 4 in January highlighting the issue of discarding, in which fishermen dump fish back in the sea, mostly dead or dying, rather than land and take them to market.
More than 678,000 people signed up to the campaign online, including celebrities such as Kate Humble, Stephen Fry and Michael Clunes, and their names have been added as signatories to the letter to Ms Damanaki.
Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall condemned discards as scandalous and an “insanely wasteful practice” that had been promoted by a Common Fisheries Policy that no longer works properly. He described the practice as “both an environmental crime and a moral outrage”.
As he handed over the protest letter he said: “I didn’t want to come here today and simply hand over a piece of paper with a lot of names on it. And I certainly didn’t want to imply that the Fish Fight is over, or the battle over discards is won. Far from it.
“I want today to mark a new phase in our Fish Fight, where we take our message – and the public outrage over wasting fish – right across Europe. That’s why today the Fish Fight website goes live in 11 different languages. We want to give the whole of Europe a voice to help end discards.”
The Commissioner is expected to formally unveil her proposals for fisheries reform in July and Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall added: “Through her leadership, the ending of discards is now the top priority for a reformed CFP. But to achieve this, she needs your support, here in Brussels today, and all over Europe tomorrow.”
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