'Let them eat fish' - EU's plans to give to the poor

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The EU has come up with an interesting solution to the fisheries discards issue – keep them and give them to poor people!

EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki told MPs that certain species of fish from European waters will be distributed to the poor and charities as an alternative to throwing them away at sea. This would be part of a proposed new deal with fishermen aimed at ending the wasteful practice of discarding edible fish at sea.

Speaking to the House of Commons select committee on environment, food and rural affairs she said: "We can use these for charitable purposes, we will have to give fishermen compensation if they give fish to the poor."

There is already a ready-made model for distributing excess goods from Europe to charities and people on low incomes, in the form of the 'food for the poor' initiative that covers agricultural products. Lower value catch that cannot be eaten could be turned into fishmeal which is used as feed in fish farms. In addition, fishermen would receive compensation for any juvenile fish they caught to discourage them from catching them. A few types of fish that can survive after they are thrown back, such as small sharks, would still be allowed to be discarded.

Damanaki faces stiff opposition for her plans to end the practise of fish discards – which sometimes amount to 70% of a catch. Some fishing groups and member states argue that forcing fishermen to land all their catch will mean lower incomes as current practices allow fleets to discard damaged fish, or lower value species, for which they receive less money, in order to maximise their profits.

The fisheries commission is currently looking for a budget of 6.7 billion euros to encourage fishermen to look for alternative occupations such as turning their boats into leisure boats or collecting plastic from the seas for recycling.

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