Friday, 12 June 2020


One of the benefits of leaving the Common Fisheries Policy will be the potential to rethink and redesign the landing obligation. Initially the industry will continue to work under EU retained law, but after 1st January there will be scope to redesign and implement new arrangements tailored to the conditions in UK fisheries. Both Defra and the NFFO have begun work to identify deficiencies in the EU landing obligation and how these could be addressed to inform a more effective and workable UK discard policy. The contents of this paper were discussed at a recent Defra/MMO/NFFO landing obligation forum.

Ministers have indicated that they wish to retain the principle of the landing obligation but are open to refinements in the way that it works in practice. Defra have arranged a meeting/conference call for Friday 5th June, to discuss how the landing obligation might work after 31st December 2020.

Post Brexit Landing Obligation

In preparation for that meeting we have prepared a draft list of points (below) which amount to NFFO policy in this area.

Address CFP Design Deficiencies

  • A requirement to land all quota species in all circumstances (except when an exemption is in place) is unenforceable – a well-designed discard policy focused on reducing unwanted catch, with the understanding and support of the fishing industry, by contrast, is an achievable objective
  • EU legislators’ focus was on legislation, not implementation (someone else’s problem); there is a need for a more integrated fisheries management approach in which discard policy has a place but is not the main driver
  • The potential for chokes in mixed fisheries remains a deep rooted and ongoing problem
  • The LO has led to loss of visibility of catches in some fisheries and in some circumstances – leading to a degradation in the scientific advice and the quality of fisheries management decisions
  • The LO depends on extensive use of exemptions – these are temporary and require annual re-visitation – absorbing too much time and effort
  • The LO was developed in an artificial moral panic, with inadequate account taken of the views of those who would be subject to the new rules
  • Discard policy should not be legislated for in inflexible primary legislation
  • Successful implementation requires an ability to adapt and adjust – which is not available within the CFP’s rigid decision-making process


  • Secure adequate quota to reduce potential for chokes (TAC decisions, UK proportion of shared stocks, internal allocation and transfer arrangements)
  • Re-brand the LO without losing emphasis on reducing unwanted catch
  • Reposition and reaffirm discards policy as a facet of fishing management (not the priority) - the principle priority/objective should be to maintain fishing mortality within safe limits and maximise sustainable yields
  • Recognise the diversity of circumstances in which discard policy is applied
  • Maintain high-survival and de minimis exemptions where sufficient evidence is available – replacement for STECF role – but on a more reasonable time cycle
  • Re-connect with fishers – policing by consent – this requires dialogue at all levels
  • Maintain focus on reducing unwanted catch, through hearts and minds rather than blunt policy instruments and heavy-handed enforcement
  • Reaffirm emphasis on the importance of accurate catch information and its connection to sound management decisions
  • Remove TAC status where it serves no purpose – eg. Irish Sea whiting
  • Muscular positioning on this issue when dealing with the EU during bilateral negotiations – UK discard policy will be separate, distinct and more effective in practice than the CFP
  • Further development of gear selectivity and avoidance strategies as practical ways of reducing unwanted catch
  • Explore voluntary use of REM subject to safeguards on ethical, legal and practical aspects, where this is a valid option
  • Focus on what economic incentives are being created when regulating – minimise scope for unintended consequences
  • Management Plans as envisaged by the Fisheries Bill could be the right vehicle for regionally and sectoral sensitive discard policies
  • Explore scope in Fisheries Bill for a charging scheme that would allow landing of unavoidable overshoots without creating an economic incentive to target
  • Measures to ensure that non-UK vessels fishing in UK waters comply with UK discard policy

NFFO June 2020