Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Fisheries Secretary, told a panel at the World Fisheries Congress that efforts to stop crews having to throw back huge numbers of their catch dead into the sea, should not just see the problem transferred onto the land.
The panel, which also included WWF Scotland and Richard Benyon, a minister for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said the issue should mean not just landing more fish and trying to find a market for them.
It was part of a discussion on the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy – and came as Prince Charles told the same conference “urgent and collective action” was needed to increase fish stocks.
Lochhead told the panel: “It’s great to see discards at the top of the agenda. But we have to focus on what’s taken in the sea and not what’s landed ashore.
“The idea of having fish mountains that replace the butter mountains, wine lakes and milk lakes we had in the eighties is completely the wrong way to go.
“We have to concentrate on what is caught at sea and we hopefully won’t have to worry about what is left going to cold storage and depending on markets.” In recent years, the cause of discarded fish has been taken up by high-profile figures including the chef, Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall.
But Richard Benyon said Defra had been working on the issue, “long before it became sexy with certain celebrities.” He added: “Fish discards are an affront for so many reasons, but not least because edible fish are thrown away in a hungry world.
I want fish to be eaten by more people in Britain, improving our food security, improving our health and our diet.
“We’ve got to do this properly.” Prince Charles had previously told the congress in an address that the British tradition of fish and chips depended on the future sustainability of fish stocks.
He said: “Fish and chips are a part of British culture, one of our iconic national dishes, but I wonder if it is an aspect of our national life that we can safely say can be sustained indefinitely.
“How we harvest the fish has a direct impact on how many are left to catch next time.
“The simple fact is that fish and chip shops rely on there being plenty more fish in the sea, and that is only going to be the case if we take care of fish stocks now and plan for them to be there long into the future.”