Commission puts discards on the table
Brussels, 1st March 2011. Commissioner Damanaki is meeting Fisheries Ministers and Members of the European Parliament for a discussion on discarding, the current wasteful practice of throwing unwanted or over-quota caught fish back into the sea.
The meeting will address management options that reduce discards in light of the ongoing process to reform the Common Fisheries Policy. Seas At Risk and the Fisheries Secretariat have sent a letter to all EU Fisheries Ministers and other key stakeholders in advance of today’s high level meeting, supporting the Commission push for a ban on discards but also reminding the Ministers to address the root of the problem by avoiding unwanted catches in the first place.
Ways to achieve this include the requirement of the best available (most selective) gear and real-time closures. The Commission is currently also considering a management system based on effort restrictions, but a system purely based on effort management will not effectively address the problem of discards. An effort-based regime provides strong incentives to increase the catch per unit effort, whereas technical measures to reduce by-catch generally reduce the catch per unit effort. Management by effort also fails to protect the weakest stock in mixed fisheries.
Therefore, aside from a discard ban, a combination of different tools and incentives should be used, such as giving preferential access to fish resources to those fishing in the most sustainable way, to effectively promote more selective fishing gears.
Finally, any policy on bycatch, selectivity and discarding should be complementary to other necessary management measures such as capacity reduction.
Discarding levels in European fisheries overall are higher than elsewhere. According to Commission figures, the situation is particularly serious in the North-east Atlantic area, where discards are estimated to be around 1,332,000 tonnes – making up 19.6 % of global discards for just 11 % of global landings. Available information on bycatch and discards clearly shows that trawl fisheries in particular cause this problem, with some fisheries discarding up to 90% of their catch.
Photograph by Ed Willsteed
To read the Seas At Risk and Fisheries Secretariat letter and the OCEAN2012 position paper on discards:
Scroll down to the bottom of the page linked below and see the 2011 March Council brief: