Swedish food industry together with WWF call for an end to illegal discarding

Published on March 15, 2019

In a letter to the Swedish government representatives from several of the largest national food industry companies together with The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have requested that “the government must urgently take action [to end illegal discarding] and introduce CCTV/camera surveillance on board fishing vessels”.

Since 1 January this year it has been illegal to throw fish back into the sea, despite this, the illegal practice has continued in Swedish waters and throughout the EU. According to the letter “this jeapordises the sustainability of fish stocks as well as the trustworthiness of the fishing industry”.

A 2018 report by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) reported that an average of 5,700-9,200 tonnes of fish and shellfish have been discarded annually between 2008-2015. The landing obligation was first introduced in 2015 and progressively additional stocks were added until full coverage began at the start of 2019. Data from ICES confirms that the practice of discarding has continued since 2015 to the present, notably with regard to Baltic cod.

According to the letter, “If we do not end this unacceptable discarding of fish at sea we will not be able to achieve the goals of more sustainable fishing and instead we risk the survival of both species and ecosystems. In the long run the profitability of commercial fishing is also threatened.”

In order to follow the legal requirements with regard to the discard ban, achieve our objectives for stock recovery, and ensure the sustainability of fishing, the representatives recommend CCTV as a proven “cost-effective tool for improving fisheries control and compliance at sea”. This is in line with a report commissioned by the Swedish government in 2014 which compared different strategies for controlling the Swedish prawn fishery, which “concluded that CCTV surveillance was considerably more cost-effective than using observers aboard vessels, maritime patrol vessels or airplanes”.

The letter notes that EU funding is available to implement the recommendations and they note that “selective fishing gears are also needed to solve by-catch problems in fisheries and enable them to comply with the landing obligation”.

A similar message of warning was communicated last year by German retailers who were concerned that IUU fishing resulting from the landing obligation not being implemented risks their ability to provide a stable supply of high quality fish to market.