Joint Letter on Discard Ban Grace Period to Martijn Van Dam- Dutch Fisheries Minister
Following your appearance before the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament, we write to follow up on your response to the question regarding the 24 month ‘period of grace’ which accompanies the discard ban during which fishermen in contravention of the rules are to be given guidance rather than punished with the full force of the law.
To work, the discard ban will require a culture change in the fishing industry. A period of grace is essential to ensure that fishermen are able to adjust established practices without fear of heavy penalties for unintended infringement of the new rules.
The current interpretation of the discard ban means that the period of grace actually started on 1 January 2015, which means that only the pelagic fishery will benefit from the full 24 month grace period. Given that it is a ‘clean’ fishery, it is arguably the fishery least in need of such a provision. The demersal fishery on the other hand will receive only 12 months grace, while the cod and fisheries (which come under the discard ban from 1 January 2017 and 1 January 2018 respectively) will fall outwith the period of grace entirely. This is particularly unfortunate since it is these ‘choke’ species which will present the greatest challenge to working fishermen. Demersal fishermen cannot learn lessons from the pelagic sector since the catching methods are fundamentally and irreconcilably different.
To address both the letter and the spirit of the landings obligation, we strongly recommend that the 24 month period of grace begins for each fishery only when the landing obligation applies to the fishery in question. We believe that this approach should be spelled out it the upcoming technical measures regulation.
Given the importance and urgency of this issue we look forward to hearing from you quickly.
Ian Duncan Peter Van Dalen
Conservative MEP for Scotland ChristenUnie MEP