The Problem of Discards in Fisheries

01-06-1999

This study, undertaken by Megapesca Lda. of Portugal, on behalf of Science and Technology Options Assessment of the European Parliament, defines the extent and nature of the problem caused by discarding in EU fisheries, and analyses the key issues involved. Discarding is shown to be mainly a problem in the North Sea and Atlantic fisheries, most commonly involving demersal trawl fishing, especially for flatfish and crustacea. Most discards are caused by economic and legal constraints on fish landings. The main impact of discarding is direct and future losses of fish of commercial value, although indirect impacts are on the ecology of non-commercial species, the marine food-web and loss of fisheries mortality data. Because of their impacts, the issue of discards has received considerable research and policy support. Although no specific EU policy operates on discards, a range of conservation measures aimed at discard reduction are implemented. The discard policy framework in Norway was investigated. This is based on progressive introduction of discard reduction measures, followed by a general discard ban. Due to significant structural differences such a policy is not considered to be an option at present for the EU, although selective discard bans may have a role in some fisheries in the longer term. Other EU policy options are also considered, including mitigation of minimum landing sizes, flexible closed areas, use of multi-annual and multi-species quotas, technical gear controls and gear bans. For each policy option, the advantages and disadvantages are explored, and the pre-conditions outlined. Suggestions are made as to how specific EU fisheries with discard problems might benefit from the options presented.

This study, undertaken by Megapesca Lda. of Portugal, on behalf of Science and Technology Options Assessment of the European Parliament, defines the extent and nature of the problem caused by discarding in EU fisheries, and analyses the key issues involved. Discarding is shown to be mainly a problem in the North Sea and Atlantic fisheries, most commonly involving demersal trawl fishing, especially for flatfish and crustacea. Most discards are caused by economic and legal constraints on fish landings. The main impact of discarding is direct and future losses of fish of commercial value, although indirect impacts are on the ecology of non-commercial species, the marine food-web and loss of fisheries mortality data. Because of their impacts, the issue of discards has received considerable research and policy support. Although no specific EU policy operates on discards, a range of conservation measures aimed at discard reduction are implemented. The discard policy framework in Norway was investigated. This is based on progressive introduction of discard reduction measures, followed by a general discard ban. Due to significant structural differences such a policy is not considered to be an option at present for the EU, although selective discard bans may have a role in some fisheries in the longer term. Other EU policy options are also considered, including mitigation of minimum landing sizes, flexible closed areas, use of multi-annual and multi-species quotas, technical gear controls and gear bans. For each policy option, the advantages and disadvantages are explored, and the pre-conditions outlined. Suggestions are made as to how specific EU fisheries with discard problems might benefit from the options presented.