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Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight brought to Brussels

Tuesday, 31st May 2011

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has brought his BAFTA-winning 'Fish Fight' to Brussels, boosting the long-standing efforts of East Midlands Conservative MEP Roger Helmer to end the practice of dumping perfectly edible fish overboard.

Over one million tons of healthy fish discarded each year in EU waters are dumped dead back into the sea. The fish are perfectly edible or could be used for the fishmeal industry.

Mr Helmer has welcomed the attention that Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall has brought to the issue. Today, Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall was serving MEPs and officials a fish meal outside the European Parliament's entrance.

Mr Helmer has however warned that the European Commission must not let itself be battered into a new 'one-size-fits-all' EU-wide fisheries management system, which could be harmful to fish stocks around the UK in the long term.

Roger Helmer believes that the Common Fisheries Policy should be re-vamped the system for managing fisheries so that decisions are made on a regional level. That way they can be tailored to every region and fishery based on the involvement of fishermen, scientists and stakeholders.

The European Commission will bring forward formal proposals to reform the CFP later in the summer. EU Fisheries Commissioner Damanaki has already announced (in early March) that she will introduce a ban on discards in phases, starting with pelagic species and eventually covering the rest over three years.

Mr Helmer said:

"For years we have highlighted the criminal insanity and waste of perfectly edible fish being thrown overboard dead just to satisfy the EU's Common fisheries Policy. Local fishermen hate having to do it but they have no choice.

"Instead of being compelled to dump fish over the side, fishermen should be able to land all they catch. It would become an offence to discard good fish.

"Such a system would provide two immediate advantages for the industry. Firstly, it would stop the appalling waste and improve conservation. Secondly, undersize fish and other species, which previously would have been discarded, could be sold to the processing sector, which is desperate for raw material to supply the fishmeal and fish oil industry.

"At last the European Commission is proposing an end to this madness. It must get the reform right or we could harm fish stocks yet further.

"The EU’s focus should be on decentralising responsibility for fisheries management down to regional level. Decisions about fisheries management should be made in conjunction with East Midlands’ fishermen based on science, not by remote bureaucrats in an ivory tower in Brussels."