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EU wants action on fishing quota discards

BRUSSELS, March 1 (UPI) -- The European Union is calling for an end to a practice in which fishing boats in the North Sea discard as much as half of their catch to stay within quotas.

"We cannot go on with business as usual," European Commission Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki told the BBC. "This is something we could afford when we had healthy stocks; but now, when stocks are declining, nobody can justify that we take fish and because of our policy we force people to throw it back.

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"This is unacceptable, and we have to abandon discarding," she said.

Damanaki proposes regulating fleets through limits on fishing time, closing "mixed fisheries" when the maximum quota of one species in it has been caught, and expanding the use of observers, electronic logbooks and monitoring of ports.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, called the proposal "a knee-jerk response to populist TV coverage which has accurately described the problem, but which offers no solutions."

A commission document blames EU and national legislation for discarding and also says the practice is motivated by "financial interests of the fishing industry to keep only more valuable fish on board."

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Currently, fishermen must discard fish when they exceed their quota for that species, or when they net fish that are too young or too small.

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