Fishermen in Cornwall and Devon are throwing thousands of pounds-worth of dead fish back into the sea.
Fishermen say stocks are healthy
They say they are forced to do so because of quota penalties on certain types of fish, including monkfish.
It has become such an issue that the government now plans to go to Brussels to argue for a change in the rules.
The European Union (EU) predicted there would be a shortage of monkfish in South West waters this year, so it imposed a tight limit in catches.
But the fishermen say there are more monkfish than anyone can remember and they are furious that they are not allowed to sell them.
Paul Puckey, skipper of the Newlyn-based St George, said: "Something has got to happen. This is ludicrous just dumping fish back into the sea.
"I can see my future just falling apart in front of me."
Fishermen say they have no choice but to throw the fish back because if they take it back into harbour they could be fined thousands of pounds.
Robin Turner of the Newlyn Fish Market, said: "The whole village relies on its fishing industry and to waste such a valuable natural resource in this way is totally obscene."
An estimated 700 people in Newlyn rely on fishing
Government scientists, who have surveyed catches, agree with the fishermen that there is apparently more monkfish than the EU predicted.
Elizabeth Stevenson, owner of Newlyn's biggest fishing company, said: "We have had problems in the past with quotas but this current problem with monkfish is the worst I have known, both financially and mentally."
The government says it is hoping to get the quota changed within the next few weeks.