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Thursday, 4 December 2014

Paving the way for the discard ban: Members of the Fisheries committee approve urgent rules

Urgently needed rules to adapt seven EU laws in order to make the new Common Fishery Policy's discard ban, or "landing obligation", work from 2015 were approved by Members of the Fisheries committee on Wednesday. The MEPs have deleted provisions not strictly relating to 2015 and softened administrative requirements for fishermen. They have also delayed the introduction of sanctions for violation of the discard ban so that fishermen can adapt more easily.

"Implementation of the discard ban is gradual, from 2015 until 2019. This regulation should only be concerned with the urgent issue of implementing the landing obligation for the fisheries concerned in 2015. I have thus proposed that the provisions relating to the other fisheries be deleted. Next year will be a test year for assessing the effects of implementing the discard ban", said Alain Cadec, rapporteur for the landing obligation regulation, and Chair of the Fisheries Committee, whose report was adopted with 20 votes against 4 and 1 abstention.

Giving fishermen a chance to adapt

MEPs have introduced a delay of two years before the introduction of a system with penalty points for infringements to the discard ban.

"The discard ban constitutes a major change for fisheries. In order to ensure its successful implementation, fisheries operators should be allowed sufficient flexibility to ensure that this can be done on a gradual basis", Mr Cadec added.

Furthermore, the obligation to keep a fishing logbook to record all quantities of each species caught and kept on board was softened by the MEPs, limiting it to catches above 50 kg of live-weight equivalent. They also deleted the requirement for fishermen to separate out undersized catches in different boxes. Other changes to the original Commission proposal include the introduction of a mechanism to prevent the development of a parallel market for non-marketable catch.

A "quick fix" pending a comprehensive overhaul of technical measures

The rules for the discard ban (Article 15 of the new Common Fisheries Policy law) conflict with several EU regulations currently in force. Under the latter, fishermen have to discard any non-marketable catch. This situation is thus at odds with the discard ban, which comes into force on 1st January 2015, and must therefore be remedied. Hence the proposal on the "Landing Obligation", pending a new framework for technical measures. This framework should be tabled by the Commission in 2015 as part of the reform and, over time, facilitate the full implementation of the discard ban as envisaged.

Next steps

Interinstitutional negotiations will start very soon, aiming to find a compromise on the negotiation's text which then has to be submitted to a first reading vote in plenary.

Background

The discard ban, or landing obligation, is one of the central objectives of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, adopted by the European Parliament in December 2013. Discards are fish thrown back into the sea, usually because they are of an unwanted species or size. They account for almost a quarter of total EU catches. Most of the discarded species die, thus making it a wasteful practice.