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25/11/2010

Dumping Of Tonnes Of Fish Angers MLA

A leading politician, the Ulster Unionist Deputy Leader, John McCallister, has hit out over tonnes of fish being caught and then tipped dead back into the sea as waste.

He has expressed his dismay at revelations that there were over 900 tonnes of fish thrown overboard from Northern Irish fishing vessels last year - primarily because they didn't meet the regulations set down in the European Common Fisheries policy.

The NI Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew (pictured) said this week that fish might be discarded for several reasons, other than the need to comply with fish quota limits.

"The majority of discards by our feet are for fish below minimum landing size," she said.

"These fish have no market value as they cannot be legally landed or sold."

However, the South Down MLA commented: "Having been contacted by several irate fishermen over the last couple of years deriding the almost draconian regulations which they have no choice but to follow, I decided to ask the Minister directly of just how much fish has been dumped over recent years.

"When the Minister got back to me and revealed that last year alone there were 906 tonnes of usually dead Cod, Haddock and Whiting discarded I was amazed by the nonsensical nature of the actions.
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"Whiting was the species most directly affected with 628 tonnes being dumped last year alone.

"In the last four years there has been 2,000 tonnes of whiting dumped.

"Fortunately there were only 10 tonnes of Cod dumped back into the water last year; however given the fact that Europe not so long ago would liked to have made us believe our Cod stocks had all but disappeared, dumping 10 tonnes of young dead Cod backing into the sea makes no sense whatsoever," he said.

"While I clearly understand the need to have measures in place to protect the future of fish stocks in the Irish Sea, dumping 906 tonnes of dead fish back into the water is doing neither the animal nor the fishing industry any good.

"The vast majority of the fish were discarded because they didn't meet the minimum landing size (MLS) as stipulated by Europe.

"Rather than making fishermen dump small dead fish back into the sea, the European Commission should really be investing in measures and equipment that makes it almost impossible for these small fish to be caught in the first place."

John McCallister concluded: "Europe must recognise the importance of balancing the need to conserve fish stocks with the need to conserve the fisheries industry.

"In Northern Ireland alone we have dumped thousands of tonnes of young and undersized fish back into the sea. These sorts of actions make no sense whatsoever."

(BMcC/GK)

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