Almost zero discards in UK trial

Two weeks ahead of an important vote on banning discards, a UK report shows that discards can be virtually eliminated.

A report released 30 November by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in the UK shows discards of important stocks such as sole, cod, plaice, megrim and anglerfish have been drastically reduced in trials carried out through 2012 with North Sea and West Channel fishermen.

The MMO trials encourage fishermen to fish more selectively and land all of what they catch. Participating vessels were provided with additional quota that amounted to three quarters of the amount typically discarded in these fisheries.

Fishery Average discard rate (%) Trial discard rate (%)
North Sea cod trawl fishery 38 0.2
Area VIIe sole beam trawl fishery 28 0.1
Area VIId and e plaice beam trawl fishery 8 0.2
Area VII anglerfish beam trawl fishery 6 1.1
Area VII megrim beam trawl fishery 12 1.3

MEPs disagree on discard ban
The MMO report shows that eliminating discards is possible – but EU politicians have not yet agreed that it should be a goal of the Common Fisheries Policy.

The discard ban is a contentious issue. It has already divided the Council and now the Fisheries Committee in the European Parliament will vote on the discard ban on 18 December as part of the key file in the fisheries reform, the basic regulation.

Many member states and MEPs argue against a discard ban on the grounds that it is difficult to end discarding. Instead they propose to “reduce” discards instead of eliminating them, to postpone the introduction of a discard ban or to introduce a ban only for some species.

MEPs who argue in favour of a discard ban covering all species hope that the MMO trial results will win over more supporters for a discard ban.

Fishers rewarded for changing fishing patterns
In the English trial, seven vessels took part in the South West along with twelve in the North Sea. The boats were not permitted to discard any of the species in the trials, including those below the minimum size. They had to land all of the fish of these species that they caught so they all counted against their quota. Data from onboard monitoring equipment, including CCTV cameras, was used to check the conditions of the trial were adhered to.

There are similar trials in Scotland. Brian Buchan, a North Sea fishermen participating in the Scottish trials, told CFP Reform Watch by email that although most fishers were against the CCTV monitoring at the beginning, most of them now say CCTV has been a good idea, “because we are being rewarded for changing our fishing patterns, altering our nets to catch less small Cod (orkney trawl) and it does work.”

“We need to get to a discard ban but it will take time. On selected species such as cod, haddock and whiting i do believe it is workable at the moment as long as the EU releases quota from the discard column to give the boats on it the incentives. The problem with a total ban at the moment is that there are certain species in the North sea such as Hake and Saithe where the Scottish boats have no fixed quota allocations (FQAs) in comparison to the amount of these species in the sea,” Brian Buchan wrote.

More information
> MMO report: Catch Quota Trials 2012 Interim Report
> MMO press release
> Fishupdate article

Axel Naver

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