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Minister Smith Supports Practical and Appropriate Measures to Tackle the Wasteful Practice of Discarding Fish at Sea

Mr Brendan Smith, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Food, today outlined Ireland's proposals for dealing with the complex issue of fish discarding at a joint meeting of European Fisheries Ministers and the European Parliament organised by Commissioner Maria Damanaki, the EU Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs. The meeting which was held in Brussels forms part of the ongoing consultation process for the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Commissioner Damanaki has placed discards high on her agenda for the CFP reform and has outlined her demands for solutions to this problem.

Minister Smith said "I fully share the Commissioner's concern about discards. Indeed tackling discards is one of the priorities in Ireland's submission on the review of the CFP and in my opinion must be a fundamental cornerstone of the new Common Fisheries Policy." Minister Smith said "there is no disagreement between Ireland and the Commissioner on the objective to reduce discards, the discussion is about the means to achieve this objective"

In response to the Commissioner's demands for a discards ban Minister Smith said "It is important to recognise that discarding is a complex issue with many differing drivers.  A successful solution requires an approach, which recognises the multi-faceted issues, the different dynamics of individual fisheries and areas and delivers real policies and change on a number of fronts. A blanket ban on discards in all fisheries may well be counterproductive as it would not have industry support, it would be difficult to implement and enforce. As a result a blanket discards ban would not work."

The Minister went on to say that "The media has quite rightly focussed a lot of attention on this subject of late. However I believe that a clear road map over a specified time period which will deliver long term and sustainable improvements is preferable to a short term set of measures which may not deliver in the long run.

With regard to Ireland's proposals Minister Smith said   "In terms of achieving actual reductions, a phased pre-defined reduction policy approach is far more likely to reduce discards in practice than an outright discards ban. Ireland has for some time been arguing for a fishery specific approach involving remedial actions to reduce or eliminate discards involving changes to fishing gear and fishing practices.  We need a suite of measures akin to a "tool box" which will be applied to fisheries as appropriate. These measures would regulate catches within pre-defined limits, discourage fishing activity in specific areas and improve gear selectivity to allow young fish and unwanted catches to escape. Whatever suite of actions are adopted it is my firm contention that the co-operation, collaboration and commitment of the relevant stakeholders is vital for success." Minister Smith emphasised that there has been consultation with industry stakeholders on the issue in Ireland and all are committed to a practical phased reduction of discards on a fishery by fishery basis.

Finally the Minister gave Ireland's full commitment to work proactively with the European Commission, the European Parliament and other Member States to progressively reduce discards, fishery by fishery and to work towards their elimination. He said "This type of approach will deliver on everyone's abiding goal, of a sustainable, economically viable and ecologically friendly fishing industry for future generations."

Date Released: 01 March 2011