MEP calls for Discard ban protection

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Ian Duncan, the Conservative MEP for Scotland, has slammed EU rules that will mean fishermen who catch white fish will be treated differently to those who fish mackerel or herring.

When the Fish Discard Ban passed through Parliament, Ian helped negotiate a two-year ‘period of grace’ whereby fishermen would not be penalised for accidental or unintended breaches of the new law, but rather provided with guidance on the rules.

The introduction of the Discard Ban has been phased, with pelagic species, such as herring and mackerel, covered from January 1, 2015, while most white fish species, including haddock, whiting, and saithe, will be covered from January 1 2016.

Cod will be covered only from January 1, 2017.

The intention of the rules was to ensure that fishermen were treated fairly and that the two-year grace period would apply to all fisheries as they came under the discard ban.

However, the European Council has argued that the ‘period of grace’ for all fisheries started on January 1, 2015, for all species.

The effect of this interpretation is that only the pelagic fisheries will benefit from the full two-year period of grace.

White fish fishermen will have only 12 months of grace, and those who fish for cod will secure no grace whatever, this despite the fact it is the inclusion of cod which will present the most significant challenge to fishermen.

Mr Duncan, who is a former secretary of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, has now raised the issue with the Dutch Fisheries Minister, Martijn Van Dam, representing the European Council.

He has secured agreement that the Council would look into the matter.

Consequently, he has written formally to Mr Van Dam outlining his concerns on the matter.

Commenting on the situation, Mr Duncan said: “The current interpretation of this law is madness.

“For a period of grace to run out before the trickiest of species is affected by the ban, specifically cod, is baffling.

“Cod fishermen will rightly be furious.

“I will continue to fight to ensure that this daft approach is reversed,” he added.