Measures aimed at conserving fish stocks are being undermined, says WWF
WWF warned the number of boats carrying cameras has fallen by half since landing obligation introduced in 2014
Fishing - credit: Robert F. Bukaty/AP/Press Association Images
Measures aimed at conserving fish stocks in UK waters are being undermined by a failure to properly police implementation, according to WWF.
The new landing obligation introduced by the UK Government prohibits fishing boats from discarding certain species of fish at sea. In 2019 the measures will be extended to ban discarding all fish at sea.
The environmental campaign group says remote electronic monitoring, using a combination of onboard cameras and sensors, is the most effective way to monitor fishing activities at sea.
But WWF warned the number of boats carrying cameras has fallen by half since the measures began to be introduced in 2014
Figures from Marine Scotland show there are just 15 boats carrying cameras, down from 32 in 2014.
WWF UK’s fisheries governance programme manager, Helen McLachlan, said: "We’re supportive of the landing obligation because if implemented effectively it offers clear opportunities, the most obvious of which is healthier fish stocks and a more resilient, profitable industry as a result.
"However, with North Sea cod and whiting coming under the discard ban at the start of 2017, we have significant concerns about the extremely low levels of monitoring and control of the ban.
"For this policy to work we need to be confident we know what is happening at sea and how much fish is being removed.
“Government and industry, in all parts of the UK, need to improve monitoring and support the adoption of policies and actions that maximise the environmental and social benefits of fisheries and minimise the risks.”
But Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fisherermen's Federation, said: "Everybody's on the same side with reducing discards as far as physically possible. It's just a question of getting the rules right, which is a work in progress.
"Cameras, frankly, are a little sideshow and the presence or absence of them will not solve or fail to solve the problem."
A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “No-one wants to see dead fish being thrown back into the sea - least of all our fishermen.
“Our fleet has already made good progress to reduce the level of discarded fish in Scotland and we are working hard to ensure the ban is implemented in a pragmatic, proportionate and phased way.
“If managed sensibly, the landing obligation will be good for Scotland and help the conservation of fish stocks that offer up dependable and sustainable catches for fishermen.”
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