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 published today analyzing landing data, video, and photographic evidence, the authors present what they claim is clear evidence of ongoing discarding of fish by trawlers in Scottish waters catching nephrops — destined for sale in breaded scampi or as langoustine — 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 catch fish legally.
“There is mounting and clear evidence that the landing obligation is being ignored to the serious detriment of once healthy fish stocks,” said Bec Hubbard, program director for Our Fish.
“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 – when are governments around Europe going to recognize the urgency for action?”
Phil Taylor, head of policy at Open Seas, added 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 won’t 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 waters.”