A EUROPEAN Parliament vote to end fish discards has received a cautious response from Lyme Regis fishermen.

MEPs voted yesterday to ban the wasteful practice of throwing dead fish back in to the sea as part of a sweeping reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Fishermen are forced to discard edible fish because they have exceeded their quota or have caught the wrong species.

Ministers agreed on provisional dates which would see a ban on discards of mackerel and herring before 2014, and a phased ban of discards of cod, plaice, sole and haddock would be in place before 2018.

It also means that fishing quotas would be based on the principle of ‘maximum sustainable yield’.

While Lyme Regis fishermen have welcomed the principle of a discards ban, they are cautious about how it would work and what would replace it.

Paul Wason said: “I welcome change in some ways but I’m a bit worried about how they are going to do it.

“We don’t know how this will affect us yet.

“The trouble is we’re still going to have quotas so somehow they have got to stop us throwing fish away.

“Our big bugbear is these quotas. I realise we’ve got to have them but they have really got to be a bit fairer about it.

“At the moment it’s spread out over the year.

“If I’m allowed to catch 500 kilos of sole for the year and it’s up to me when I catch them, that’s fine, I can pick the time of the year when it’s best for me to catch them.”

Paul Wason’s brother Chris also operates out of Lyme and is vice chairman of the South West Inshore Fishermen’s Association.

He said: “If it gets rid of discards, that’s a must. You can’t keep chucking good fish back to watch seagulls eat them.

“I absolutely detest watching it float away.

“It’s what we replace it with is the problem.

“I just don’t see how you can physically replace discards. Obviously there’s a set amount you are allowed to catch so stocks can be preserved as much as possible, but I just don’t see any way around it.

“I have spent hours thinking about what can work.”

Axminster chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall led the Fish Fight campaign, which saw hundreds of thousands of people signing a petition to end discards.

He has welcomed the move by the European Parliament.

He said: "It's fantastic news that MEPs in the European Parliament voted for a strong discards ban and a legally-binding end to overfishing.

“I hope in years to come this will be seen as a historic turning point in Europe's fisheries management.

“It's over two years since we launched the Fish Fight campaign, and this is one of the major results we’ve been campaigning for.”


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