By Ray Fleming

WHEN millions of people in the world go to bed hungry every night of their lives it seems obscene that North Sea fishermen throw away dead half of all the fish they catch before they reach port. They have little alternative to doing this if they want their permitted quota to be made up only of the fish that the market wants. The quotas exist for good reasons but there is a negative side in their implementation. Of course the fish that Scotland's fishermen reject could not easily be made available to those hungry millions but the European Union FIsheries Policy which is designed to conserve supplies of North Sea fish nonetheless has seemed for some time to need reform.

A welcome first step was taken in Brussels this week when the EU fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanski, got the support of Britain, France, Germany and Denmark for outline proposals she has made to tackle this complex problem.

Change will not come overnight and it was probably discouraging to Brussels that the reaction of Scottish fishermen was initially negative and even hostile to her initiative. It will take months if not years of negotiations before a satisfactory out come is reached but change must come -- if cannot be right that under present arrangements some 40 million pounds worth of fish goes to waste in the North Sea alone.