Marine Scotland response - Discard Ban enforcement
As many of you will know the Fish Discard ban, or landings obligation, is now in force.
As shadow reporter on the landings obligation I worked closely with Alain Cadec MEP, chair of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, to ensure that the landings obligation was introduced in a manner which recognised the significant adjustments fishermen would be called upon to make. To that end I lodged an amendment, accepted by both Parliament and Council, to ensure that after the implementation of the regulation, affected fishermen would have a two year ‘grace’ period during which Member State authorities would not be compelled to exercise the full force of the law for errors or confusions, but could apply discretion.
Accordingly I was troubled to hear that Marine Scotland were telling concerned fishermen that my amendment had no real world impact other than the ability to apply penalty points to the individual concerned’.
Last week I wrote to Marine Scotland and I am happy to report that they will follow the spirit of my amendment. They write
We fully recognise the introduction of a new fishing regulation requires a period of adjustment for industry and the enforcement authorities, and we acknowledge that the landing obligation represents a very significant change to fishing practices, which in this case reinforces the need for such a period of adjustment. Our policy is to work with skippers to understand and adapt to the new rules, not to progress to prosecution straightaway. As you correctly point out, Marine Scotland Compliance will have the ability to apply their discretion when an infringement is detected and to be proportionate in its approach. I can confirm that it will take care to ensure that when possible and appropriate it will take the opportunity to support and guide skippers through the initial period of adaptation to the new legislation rather than resorting precipitately to formal enforcement measures.
The Landings Obligation is a huge change in the way fishermen work and the authorities must support skippers through the next two years. For more information please read my letter to Marine Scotland, and the response I received.