Marine fish in the EU: freshly caught, perished, thrown away


Status: 14.12.2021 2:07 p.m.

Devastated seabeds, disturbed ecosystems, animals that perished as “bycatch” – research by Report Mainz show: Animal welfare in fishing plays almost no role.

Munich – Viktualienmarkt: The displays in the fish delicatessen shops are looking very good again this Christmas business. Red mullets, freshly caught from the English Channel, are on offer, as well as sea bass, lobster and the wings of a ray. The gourmet’s mouth will water.

But where do these fish come from exactly, how were they caught? An activist from the animal rights group SOKO Tierschutz investigated this. At the beginning of November she went to Normandy and managed to convince a ship owner to take her along with her camera equipment on a trawler.

Few of the marine animals actually end up in the

Image: SOKO animal welfare

Bycatch is a threat to the marine ecosystem

The activist spent five days in the English Channel and the North Sea. They fish every three hours. The seafarers tell her that they want to get out sole. But it soon becomes clear: the nets that are brought in are full of young sharks, rays, plaice and many crustaceans. Quite a few fish are much too small to be sold later. It’s called bycatch – and it’s big.

In an interview with Report Mainz The activist says: “They fish as much as they can. During our trip they took out ten tons of fish that was marketable. Ten tons of marketable fish, that means they got out a lot more that had no value.”

Only a fraction is used

But how much is the “more” bycatch that is taken out of the sea? Report Mainz therefore consults a fisheries expert: Iris Ziegler from the Sharkproject organization. The group has been observing the fate of sharks, rays and what is known as bycatch for years and is extremely critical of this development.

“In fact, the bycatch in this fishery is often the bulk of the catch. Only – you don’t want it because it is worthless. And for what? For a plaice? A sole that we then have on our plate at the end “, she says. “But if you look at these masses, they can estimate how much life is senselessly extracted from our seas every day. And the ecosystem lacks that.”

Bottom trawling catches as many animals as possible, but often only a few are actually used.

Image: SOKO animal welfare

Bottom trawling creates problems

The marine animals are brought out of the sea with a certain fishing method. It is what is known as bottom trawling. The net is lowered to the bottom of the sea and then pulled behind the boat. The net catches everything that is on the ocean floor. It is literally plowed up in the process.

What remains is a trail of devastation and everything that comes into the net will be trapped. These include endangered species as well as fish that are far too small. The brood is also caught. Once these animals land on board, they are sorted out, perish and are thrown back into the sea as a dead mass. Skarkproject estimates that around ten times the amount of bycatch is taken out compared to the fish that can be sold.

EU refers to regulations

Report Mainz confronted the responsible EU commissioner for the environment and fisheries with this problem. But its press office only refers to the regulations in the fisheries regulation. It regulates the fishing quotas and – because the trawlers get more and more fish out of the seas than they finally land and sell, it has included a landing obligation in the ordinance. One thing is clear: fishing trawlers have to land whatever they catch.

“With regard to this so-called landing obligation, the member states must do their utmost to reduce unwanted catches. However, it has only existed since January 1, 2019. It is therefore too early to assess the effectiveness of this measure,” the statement said of the European Commission.

Inadequate controls

But already today this rule does not apply, this is stated by the German MP Martin Häusling. He is a critic of the EU’s fisheries policy. “It is not monitored, it is not implemented,” he said in an interview with Report Mainz. “We need a control system on the ships. So why don’t we have cameras on the ships? Why don’t we have any inspectors who go with us on larger ships? That is still being torpedoed by the fishing industry, and it can actually do that Don’t accept the European Union. “

No animal welfare regulations to protect the fish

The activist of the animal rights group SOKO Tierschutz finally succeeds in filming how the fish are processed after they are caught. They are transported on a conveyor belt to a room where the marine animals are slaughtered. Recordings that the activist shot here show how a living ray or a young shark is slit open and gutted while still alive.

No improvement expected

For Friedrich Mülln from SOKO Tierschutz, who evaluated all the images, this is everyday life in the fishery. Animals would be slit open without anesthesia and their innards torn out without anesthesia. After that, the animals would sometimes live considerably longer. For Mülln this is “an incredible shame for the European Union.”

The responsible EU Commissioner, faced with this, declares:

We cannot say too much about animal welfare in fishing. Because that’s not regulated at EU level. However, we have recognized animal welfare in this area as a key area for the future. Above all, we must also be active in the area of ​​transport and killing of animals.

In plain language: Since the member states have to coordinate this with one another, not much will likely happen in the next few years when it comes to animal welfare. A fatal perspective.

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