Our ocean lawyers have today released reports showing that the three countries, all with major fishing industries, have not adequately enforced the ‘landing obligation’ or punished law-breakers.
ClientEarth Fisheries lawyer Elisabeth Druel said: “As long as discarding continues, we will not know how many fish are being killed at sea. Without this data, scientists cannot make the right estimates to protect our fish stocks.
“Discarding can result in the unnecessary death of millions of tonnes of fish every year. This is disastrous for fish stocks, our ocean ecosystem and the fishing industry.”
The obligation to land all catches was introduced in 2013 to stop unwanted fish being thrown overboard and to push operators to put in place more selective fishing techniques.
Almost two million tonnes of fish and other marine animals are estimated to be thrown back into the sea each year. This is hugely wasteful, and makes it almost impossible to accurately measure the health of fish stocks in European waters.
The phasing-in period started in 2015, and the discard ban became compulsory for all EU countries in January 2019.
Today’s reports show that Denmark, France and Spain don’t have the proper means to control discards, or mechanisms to account for all catches, including discards.
The lack of sanctions in the three countries in 2017 and 2018 also indicates that the discard ban is not being properly enforced. In that period:
- Spain reported no infringements;
- The Danish Fisheries agency found only three infringements; and,
- French authorities applied no sanctions.
Druel added: “Some very concrete solutions exist to ensure that no fish is discarded, including equipping fishing vessels with remote electronic monitoring system like CCTV or net sensors. We encourage all public authorities to adopt these tools and apply sanctions to stop fish discards.”
The latest figures show that Spanish fishers account for 21% of the overall EU fleet in terms of capacity, and France accounts for 11%. Denmark, one of the biggest fishing countries in Europe, is currently facing an EU infringement procedure for failing to properly control fishing practices, and for illegal misreporting catches.