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CCTV on fishing boats hailed success in Denmark

Some Scottish fisherman are unhappy about the decision to install CCTV on fishing boats in a bid to cut the amount of dumping at sea.

CCTV on fishing boats hailed success in Denmark

The controversial decision to install CCTV on fishing boats in a bid to reduce fish dumping in the North Sea have been branded “spying” by some fishermen.

But in Denmark, where the industry has just completed a trial run, the scheme has been hailed a success.

There, scientists placed cameras onboard seven boats like the Fru Middelboe in a pilot study - allowing them to monitor all the fish that were caught and thrown away.

Aqua Scientist Lotte Kindt-Larsen from Denmark Technical University said: "We normally don't have access to this kind of data except for having observers onboard, but now we are filming everything and we have data for every day they go out."

Each year one million tonnes of fish are dumped back dead into EU waters - either legally because legislation stops skippers landing what they have caught, or illegally when fishermen throw away small fish for larger, more profitable ones.

The Danes say their study has shown the quantity of discards decreases when cameras are installed.

Powerful environmental groups who warn of critically low fish stocks have given their backing to the scheme.

WWF Marine Policy Officer Louize Hill said: "The use of cameras onboard is fantastic. WWF has advocated the use of observers on fishing boats for a long time to record what is actually being caught because with the present system we can only record what's landed."

The discards row has left fishermen branded as environmental villains – one of the reasons why Fin Svendsen, the skipper of the Kingfisher was keen to sign up to the scheme.

Mr Svendsen said: "I think it's a good idea to have onboard because then we can show how much we catch without discards."

But clearing their name is not the fishermen’s’ only incentive.

The Danish Government want to allow boats with cameras to land and sell more fish - a move they say is achievable because existing quotas already deduct discards from the amount fishermen are allowed to catch.

If there are no discards then fishermen could catch the full amount.

To do this they need the European Commission's backing, which means they will have to persuade the rest of Europe that it is a good idea.

Ministerial Adviser Mogens Schou said: "It's of course crucial that other member states and the EU commission can see that there's an advantage and it's also crucial I think that we can see it can be a driver for fishermen to be more accountable for what they fish."

Scotland is already showing interest in the proposal with a pilot scheme launched last month.

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP said: "It will show the policy makers, particularly in Brussels who are often very heavy handed, what actually happens onboard the fishing vessels and the impact that their regulations can have."

However, not all Scots fishermen are convinced by the introduction of the cameras - seeing it as spying by Brussels.

Scots skipper David Milne said: "We have satellite monitoring, we are going to electronic log books in 2011 and we feel it's just an infringement of our human rights to have someone watching us day in day out at our work."

But for the Danes, cameras are a way of freeing fishermen from the bureaucracy of Brussels - with CCTV they say there is no need for the 2,600 rules which currently govern every aspect of fishing.

It remains to see if Denmark’s seafaring neighbours in Europe will be similarly convinced.
 

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