Tonnes of dead fish thrown back into sea off Plymouth coast

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A fisherman has shared a video of a large haul of bass which he says had to be thrown back into the sea because of fishing regulations.

Around two tonnes of fish were caught off the Plymouth coast by accident but all had to be thrown away, he says.

The video was posted by Andrew Giles who owns the trawler.

He wrote: "Just crazy. This could have given the boys a much needed lift after a very hard winter."

He later explained: "They are legally allowed to keep five per cent of the bass of weight of all the other fish on board. So if they have 200kg of fish on board they can keep 10kg (about five fish)."

The video has led to a debate around the rules trawlers must follow.

A video of the dead fish posted by Andrew Giles - some viewers may find this distressing. Credit: Richard Coombs

Luke Pollard, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport - and former shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) - said there was a "need to get on top of this" saying it was "ridiculous that we are still asking our fishers to throw away perfectly good fish to rot in the ocean."

He said: "I know fishers go out of their way to avoid catching these fish. Now we're not in Common Fisheries, we need to demonstrate to the Government that this is not 'job done', this is a problem which has not been resolved."

Mr Pollard said there needed to be a system which encouraged fishermen not to waste fish, but also not to profit from taking fish for which they didn't have a quota.

He said: "This is happening at a time when we are in the middle of a climate and nature crisis.

"It is completely ridiculous that the government is turning a blind eye and sitting on their hands when we need a proper workable solution that will help the environment, fish stocks, and the fishing industry because what we have at the moment isn't working.

"We need a national decision around discards. We need proper support for our fishing industry. But this is where the government needs to come true on the promises that it's made to the fishing industry.

"They promised the fishing industry a sea of opportunity, but they've only delivered bureaucracy, red tape and extra costs since Brexit."

Clara Johnston from the Marine Conservation Society thinks more data is needed to see if bass can be fished sustainably.

She said "I think there still needs to be strict management regulations around how much sea-bass can be sustainably extracted.

"It's not a quota species in the way that, for example, cod is, where there's a fixed quota that vessels can go out and catch, it's done on a percentage of the overall catch of the vessel.

"I would be hesitant to say catching more sea-bass is the answer, however, obviously there is an issue with discarding and that's something which needs to be addressed."

Defra statement

In a statement Defra - the department for food and rural affairs - said: “Since 2015 the UK has implemented specific management measures to help stocks recover and ensure the sustainability of bass stocks, an important species for both commercial and recreational fishers.

"No one wants to see fish go to waste. From 1 January 2022, we have implemented further allowances which remove the requirement for trawls and seines to have a track record to land their bass bycatch, reducing the amount of bass being wastefully discarded.”