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UK lawmakers condemn lack of implementation of EU discard ban

Lord calls for retailers, MSC to push for full compliance.

A new report by the UK Parliament's EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee is condemning the lack of implementation of the EU discard ban, or landing obligation, across the board.

The landing obligation, which was agreed to by EU members in 2013, has been gradually phased in throughout a four-year period that ended January.

The gradual implementation was aimed at increasingly allowing fleets to adapt to the new regulations.

However, British lawmakers are raising questions over the implementation of the landing obligation -- which is aimed at reducing fish discarding at sea -- and calling for the introduction of better selective gear, and for more members of the supply chain to push for full compliance.

Robin Teverson, chair of the sub-committee, told IntraFish the lack of implementation is especially concerning since quotas have been increased in some cases to take into account the discard obligation.

“If the quotas are higher, and the fishing vessels are not complying with the discard ban, then it means that they are catching fish above the levels recommended by scientists,” said Teverson.

There are various factors that could be leading to the lack of implementation, from difficulties for enforcement agencies to verify compliance out in the ocean, to the fact that there isn’t an agreement on the technological methods that should be used to ensure enforcement.

The committee is asking for the mandatory use of remote electronic monitoring on all vessels fishing in UK waters, better selective gear, and collaboration with other member states and the European Commission to ensure compliance.

In addition, other players along the supply chain could play a role in the implementation of the system.

“For example, retailers could ask that the Marine Stewardship Council require operators to fully implement the discard ban in order to be certified,” Teverson told IntraFish.

The “disappointing” lack of enforcement is also partly due to a lack of preparedness before bringing the regulation forward. “It’s not good to pass a law without having the means to implement it,” Teverson said.

“We are at a moment where what should have been the end of a process has become not even the beginning.”

The concerns over the full implementation of the regulation arose as a number of anticipated challenges have not materialized, which according to the report is a sign that the regulation is not being complied with by fleet operators.

This includes previous concerns on indications that vessels would reach their quotas much earlier in the year, and that storage facilities and supply chains would struggle to cope with the amount of undersized fish brought to shore.

“We were, therefore, concerned to find that the full implementation of the landing obligation appears to have had little effect during its first six months,” the report says.

“While we heard some evidence that this was due to changes in fishing practices, many witnesses also expressed skepticism that the rules are being complied with.”

It is expected that the United Kingdom will maintain a landing obligation once it leaves the European Union and the Common Fisheries Policy, with some modifications.

Earlier this year, however, the sub-committee warned of a possible "devastating impact" of the landing obligation.

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