Pass notes No 3,009: Discards

The EU may be about to discard its policy on discards. Confused? Then read on . . .

Age: Varies.

Appearance: Ugly, smelly, dead in the water . . .

It's News International! It's not!

David Cameron? I haven't finished yet. Ugly, smelly, dead in the water . . . and very popular with seagulls.

That probably rules out Jeremy Hunt. So what are we talking about? Fish. "Discards" is what professional fishermen call the ones that reach the boat but are chucked back overboard.

Because no one will buy them? Not always. Even cod can be discarded.

Because they're too small even for whitebait? Again, that's usually not the reason.

Then it can only be the animal rights brigade. Do you remember when they wanted to rebrand fish as sea kittens? Have those idiots ever tried to stroke a haddock? The fish still die, you imbecile. They just never make it to shore, because that would be illegal.

Says who? The EU. Its common fisheries policy puts quotas on many species, and once those limits are reached the only option is to chuck the corpses away. In the North Sea around half the total catch is abandoned.

Didn't that Hugh Fearnley-Wassisname campaign about this recently? Or am I thinking of plastic corks? He did, and if you are you shouldn't be. He called the situation "outrageous", and his petition to change it got 700,000 signatures. If you're wondering what fisheries minister Richard Benyon thinks about it . . .

Let's pretend I am. It's "disgraceful". Even the EU fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, reckons it's "morally and environmentally unacceptable".

Something must be done! And I'm sure I'd think that even without a TV personality telling me so. Things could be looking up. Damanaki has just announced proposals to reform the fisheries policy. The plans would force fishermen to land everything they catch. "It's not perfect," says Fearnley-Whittingstall, "but it's a brave step in the right direction." But the law won't change until the end of 2012, which leaves plenty of time for the proposals to be watered down.

Do say: "It's a net improvement!"

Don't say: "It's a drop in the ocean!"

The GuardianTramp

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