Monday, January 11, 2010

Fisheries and discards

A Written Question by the Lord Teverson asked Her Majesty's Government
what was the total tonnage of fish caught by the United Kingdom-registered fishing fleet from species regulated by Common Fisheries Policy quotas in the past year for which the figure is available; and what was the total tonnage of those fish that were discarded.
The response was somewhat complicated and, dare one say it, inadequate. It seems that, to a great extent, HMG does not know the tonnage of fish that has been discarded (because according to the Common Fisheries Policy, it is over the amount our fishermen are allowed to catch and land).

As Lord Davies of Oldham explained:
UK fisheries laboratories send observers to sea to record the quantity of fish discarded and retained by fishing vessels. This sampling is intended to provide estimates of discards of the main commercial species, but at present is not representative of all UK fisheries. It is also only possible to sample a proportion of the vessels participating in any fishery. As a consequence, estimates of total discards are subject to uncertainty.
Not precisely helpful, given what a problem those discards are but we do know some:
Estimates of discards for 2008 are available for the following fisheries:

Fleet-English and Welsh vessels over 10 metres in length.Areas-North Sea (ICES area IV), and waters to the south and west of England and Wales (ICES area VII).Species-Demersal quota species (Cod, haddock, plaice, sole, anglerfish etc.).Estimated 2008 catches-37,000t, of which 27,600t were landed and 9,400t discarded.

Fleet-Scottish vessels over 10 metres in length.Areas-North Sea (ICES area IV), and west of Scotland (ICES Division Vla). Species-Cod, haddock, whiting and saithe.Estimated 2008 Catches-91,700t of which 56,600t were landed and 35,100t discarded.Fleet-UK vessels fishing for pelagic species. Areas-All areas. Species-Mackerel, horse mackerel, herring, sprat, blue whiting. Estimated 2008 Catches-203,200t of which 198,300t were landed and 4,900t discarded.

In total these fisheries are estimated to have caught around 332,000t of the relevant species in 2008, of which 283,000t was landed and 49,000t were discarded.
Thus, we can see that even for the limited areas for which there are estimatesof discards, we are talking about quite a lare amount of fish that is caught and discarded.

While we are on the subject of discards, let us not forget that the first thing the Boy-King of the Conservative Party did on becoming leader is to discard the very sensible fisheries policy produced by the Boss of EUReferendum and the then Conservative spokesman on the subject, Owen Paterson, and adopted by Michael Howard.

It so happens, that yesterday I was outlining the story of the Conservative fisheries policy and David Cameron to a political journalist who described herself as a "europhobe" but who was so mesmerized by the Punch and Judy show that British politics had become that she refused to see anything beyond the notion of getting rid of Gordon Brown and giving David Cameron a chance.

What of his performance over the fisheries policy? Perfectly understandable, she said. When Cameron became leader he had to get rid of the swivel-eyed, europhobic image to make the party electable. Comments like this from highly intelligent and knowledgeable people make me despair.

Response number one is that the Conservative Party was never eurosceptic, let alone europhobic except in the fevered imagination of the BBC, the Guardian and the Independent.

Response number two is that even if that had been true, a rational reorganization of our fisheries policy (which would, indeed, have entailed coming out of the CFP but had many other aspects) would have been popular among a very large proportion of the population and even the chattering classes, as the CFP is universally acknowledged to be a social, economic and ecological disaster. Nothing swivel-eyed even for the Guardian in getting rid of the concept of discards. Yet Cameron discarded the policy, presumably because he did not want to upset the Colleagues. Or, maybe, he thinks it is a good idea. Who knows?

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