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Fisheries: Commission acts to reduce discards in the West of Scotland

Press release - 23/02/2012

The European Commission today used emergency powers, under Article 7 of Council Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002 to reduce and avoid excessive discarding of haddock in the West of Scotland.

The emergency measure adopted will permit the fishermen to land the catches rather than discard fish. It will come into force with an immediate effect for 6 months initially. Incidental catches of haddock have increased due to the recent progress in the recovery of the stock. To comply with rules on so-called "catch composition", fishermen would be forced to discard haddock for which they have a quota. Excessive discards were expected, thus threatening the stock's capacity to reproduce.

Regulatory-induced discarding, if allowed to continue, would limit and endanger the further rebuilding of the stock. Removing the haddock from the catch composition rule allows exploiting the stock rationally, prevents excessive discarding, and protects the other stocks better.

Recognising the urgency to protect the stock, the Commission has instigated emergency measures. This allows for a derogation to be enacted for 6 months initially, with the possibility to extend it for another 6 months.

Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: "We will act swiftly to avoid unnecessary discards. Today's decision proves it. The situation in the fishery has changed, and the very rules that were adopted three years ago to protect the stock now threaten its sustainability. Thanks to the emergency powers, we can urgently amend the rules when the new developments require it."

Background

Cod, whiting and haddock stocks in this area have been previously subject to intensive fishing pressure, leading to their collapse. The haddock stock shows signs of recovery, with more fish becoming of the right size and weight to catch in recent years. This has led to increased abundance of haddock on the fishing grounds.

In setting fishing opportunities the Commission seeks to achieve a Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) for each stock. According to the scientific advice, fishing opportunities can be increased for the haddock stock. And the Fisheries Council in December 2011 increased a TAC (total allowable catches) for haddock to allow fishermen benefit from improved stock's condition.

Catch composition rules were introduced as part of the Council Regulation (EC) No. 43/2009 as a response, at the time, to the collapse of stocks of whitefish in the West of Scotland. These requirements limit the total volume of haddock, whiting and cod that can be landed in each fishing trip, depending upon gear type. Fish caught in excess of the permitted percentage per fishing trip risk being discarded. This is the risk haddock now faces. Excessive discarding would damage any further recovery of eth haddock stock. The Commission have therefore used powers available under the Common Fisheries Policy to introduce emergency measures and urgently remove haddock from under the catch composition rules.

Next steps

Measures under emergency powers come into force once published. They are in place for 6 months initially and can be renewed, once only, for further 6 months at the most.

The Commission is keen to ensure that the use of emergency powers does not impede on the prerogatives of the EU legislator (the Council and Parliament). Therefore it intends to review the existing legislation on technical measures in 2012. Any further derogation or amendment can be addressed then.

See also:   Questions and Answers: Emergency measures to remove haddock from catch composition rules in West of Scotland