Campaigners call to stop illegal discarding of fish in Scotland
The evidence collected by the campaigners is said to be confirmed by figures which indicate that thousands of tonnes of fish such as cod, whiting and haddock are now being discarded illegally in Scottish fisheries.
Seafood campaign groups Our Fish and Open Seas have called for urgent measures to stop illegal discarding of juvenile and vulnerable fish species to allow dwindling fish stocks to recover. In a report analysing landing data, video and photographic evidence, the authors have presented what is said to be clear evidence of ongoing discarding of fish by trawlers in Scottish waters supplying the scampi industry, despite this now being illegal. The campaigners have also expressed concerns about the possible misuse of bycatch ‘buffer’ quota designed to help ensure these inshore trawlers fish legally.
All bycatch caught in this fishery must be landed, but in ports where hundreds of tonnes of prawns destined for the scampi market were landed, no bycatch species such as cod, whiting and haddock were declared, according to the report.
The campaigners have said that cod and whiting continue to be landed to ports such as Kinlochbervie, suggesting the bycatch ‘buffer’ quota is not being used widely by the prawn fleet, whilst catches of undersized fish from already decimated inshore stocks continue being discarded at sea.
The campaigners have called for an urgent spatial plan to avoid inshore nursery and spawning grounds, vessel tracking on all boats as well as strict license conditions to be set so that bycatch quota is only available to those following the rules and who are facing a bycatch problem.
“There is mounting and clear evidence that the Landing Obligation is being ignored to the serious detriment of once healthy fish stocks. West coast cod has collapsed and yet despite gear innovations and the allocation of bycatch quota against recommended levels, trawl fisheries continue to illegally discard undersized fish, the future of stock recovery. Fish populations like cod and haddock on the west coast are in crisis,” said Bec Hubbard, Program Director for Our Fish.
“Sadly, the amount of bycatch and the fact it is being illegally discarded means this is not a sustainable fishery. We respect the efforts made by some within the industry, but bringing scampi onto our plates still involves the catch of large volumes of small, baby fish like cod, from stocks that have already collapsed. Regulators and those profiting from selling scampi must take urgent measures to rebuild fish stocks, and protect the wider marine ecosystem. Our stocks will not recover unless the discard ban is implemented and enforced across the whole fleet, so that real data can inform an urgent plan to avoid trawling in sensitive coastal water,” added Phil Taylor, Head of Policy at Open Seas.