Reported in the Independent based on an FOI from NGO Open Seas

Several thousand tonnes of dead fish have been illegally discarded by trawlers in the North Sea and west coast of Scotland this year, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

Small, juvenile fish often end up getting caught in scampi fisheries because their mesh nets are so small. Under EU regulations introduced earlier this year to curb overfishing, boats are no longer allowed to discard any undersized fish they catch.

Instead, the smaller fish – which cannot be sold for human consumption – must be taken back to land, to count towards their overall quota.

Data showed that more than 2,600 tonnes of unwanted codhaddock, whiting and saithe were estimated to have been caught in scampi fisheries in the first three months of this year. This will result in the waste of around 10,500 tonnes of dead fish by the end of 2019, according to an FOI response analysed by marine campaigning group Open Seas.

The landing data shows virtually none of this bycatch is declared in port – which means a large portion of it must be illegally thrown out of the boat.

This means fishermen are not discouraged from fishing in shallow coastal waters where juvenile fish live, so fragile populations of fish like North Sea cod are not given chance to recover.

Phil Taylor, head of policy for Open Seas, says: “There is now overwhelming evidence that the shocking practice of fish discarding is continuing illegally in our coastal seas. The problem is clear-cut for scampi trawlers which often use small meshed nets that catch of large volumes of unwanted, young fish, often less than 20cm in length.

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