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Showing posts with label discards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label discards. Show all posts

Tuesday 17 September 2019

APPG - What is the Landing Obligation?

What is the Landing Obligation?

At the beginning of the decade, the fact that 1.7 million tonnes of fish were being discarded at sea every year in European waters was brought to the forefront of public and policy discussion. This figure shocked the European public and sparked a petition that gathered 870,000 signatures in support of a policy change to prevent discarding.

The EU responded by introducing the Landing Obligation into the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Also known as the ‘discards ban,’ many describe it as the most dramatic step-change in European fishing policy since the CFP’s implementation. This piece of legislation was simple in its directive: to make it a legal obligation for fishing vessels to land virtually everything they catch, with the aim of eliminating discards. It has been gradually implemented since 2015, and came into full force in January 2019.

The Landing Obligation makes it a legal requirement to land all catches.


Discarding can happen for one of two reasons: because the fish caught are not commercially valuable (for instance, they are of low value, or too small); or to avoid fulfilling quotas that would then prevent the vessel from fishing for other species. Many vessels target a wide range of species, and are unable to fish once the landed quota for any one of those species is exhausted. The practise of discarding had been used as a valve for the industry to prioritise high-value catches whilst staying within quota limits.

If allotted annual quota for a particular species is low, this quota can be filled quickly, even if the species is caught unintentionally. Once this quota limit is reached, the vessel is no longer permitted to catch anything, since it can’t guarantee that it can catch desired species without also catching the quota-limited species. This is known as a ‘choke’.

Unsurprisingly, fishermen are keen to avoid such chokes as they can be financially ruinous, preventing them from fishing for months at a time. When the Landing Obligation was announced, many members of the fishing industry were highly sceptical of the incoming legislation, since it required virtually every fish caught to be accounted for. Although many accepted its necessity to stop certain stocks becoming depleted, and many fishermen have themselves decried the waste of discarding edible fish, reservations about its practicality remained.

Traditional quota trading between fleets and between nations can help alleviate the likelihood of chokes developing. The Landing Obligation means that quota trading likely to become less flexible as fishing bodies keep back quota as ‘insurance’ against getting choked. Other quota distribution methods are needed to ensure a stalemate doesn’t arise. The UK Government has said it is working closely with the UK fishing industry to ensure maximum quota distribution efficiency, including extensive consultation to gather experience and knowledge of quota allocation processes.

Choke issues have also been at the forefront of collaborative work carried out by sea-basin-wide advisory bodies, the ‘Advisory Councils’, where stakeholders have been working to identify choke livelihood and methods to counteract these risks. See the North-Western Waters Advisory Council ‘Choke Mitigation Tool’ as an example.

The Lords Inquiry

In late 2018, in the months preceding full implementation, the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee examined the likely effectiveness of the Landing Obligation in UK waters. Their February 2019 report concluded that the UK was not prepared for full implementation as the phasing-in stage had seen little change to fishing practices. Given this lack of preparation, many predicted that the introduction of the Landing Obligation would lead to widespread choke incidents, possibly even within the first few weeks of implementation.

However, when the Lords published a follow-up report in July 2019, they found the first six months of implementation had not led to many choke events. Nor had there been many significant increases in landings of fish that would have previously been discarded. The Lords report draws attention to three potential explanations for this unexpected trend:

A significant number of fishermen are not complying with the new legislation and are continuing to discard fish at sea;

Recent improvements to gear selectivity have significantly reduced unwanted catches;

Choke species have not been abundant since full implementation - although this explanation is less widely supported.

It is likely that all three of these possible explanations have played a role, but the lack of recorded discards, both historical and current, makes it extremely difficult to decipher the causes behind this unexpected trend. The Lords report urges both the UK government and devolved administrations to remedy this going forwards.


The Lords report suggests that a significant number of vessels may have continued to discard fish at sea, discouraged from compliance by the penalties that landing all their catch could incur. Since most vessels do not carry surveillance systems, it is impossible to measure the extent of any illegal discards.

Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) systems on vessels, which incorporate CCTV, GPS and other sensors, could be installed to help tackle any issues associated with continued discards. The Lords report recommends this approach to ensure compliance, yet the practicalities of carrying this out are complex and would incur significant costs and many fishermen find them overly intrusive. Despite this, CCTV remains one of the most feasible methods to ensure compliance. Other methods - such as patrol boats, air surveillance or onboard observers - are considered impractical given the size and range of the UK fleet.

Gear Selectivity

The lack of chokes and ‘unwanted’ landings observed could also be a consequence of improvements to gear selectivity. Improvements in selectivity, especially net mesh size and geometry, have been taken up by many vessels, reducing unwanted catches. This is good news for stock management, but proper monitoring is needed to assess the impact of selective gear uptake on fish stocks.

Selective fishing gear is a key method in working towards eliminating bycatch and discards. It can keep fishermen’s income flowing, reduce risk of chokes and ensure long-term stock sustainability. There is a lot of research in this area currently, with results being collated and made publicly available by initiatives such as GearingUp. However, gear selectivity can only do so much - some species are just too similar in shape, size and behaviour - and substantial bycatch of many species will continue, so this does not negate the need for monitoring compliance.

It is often a hefty investment on the part of the fishermen to install new gear, which is why Government assistance is necessary. Incentives can be granted to fishermen to encourage uptake, including a greater share of fishing quota.

What happens next?

The UK Government supports the Landing Obligation and it is very likely that it will remain in place following the UK’s exit from the EU, however the form in which it is implemented may change. The draft Fisheries Bill allowed for extra flexibilities to support fishermen in dramatically reducing discards, whilst also keeping fishing businesses afloat - for example, a central quota pool was proposed to act as a buffer against choke risks. From this pool, fishermen would be able to access additional quota if a limited, choke, stock threatened to curtail their fishing activity for other, more abundant species.

It is uncertain what action the government will take regarding monitoring and enforcement. If REM becomes compulsory for UK vessels, the UK could insist that any vessels from other nations fishing in UK waters must also follow the same regulations. Some industry representatives say that fishermen need to be granted greater incentives to comply, but the Lords report raises concerns that this would give the impression that the legal requirement to land all catch is voluntary.

The Lords report recommends that bycatch reduction plans, incorporating REM and selective fishing gear, should be developed by the Government as quickly as possible. They urge the Government and fishing bodies to heed scientific advice and ensure that the UK fishing industry develops a reputation for legal, sustainable fishing in all of its waters.

Tuesday 11 June 2019

New Technical Conservation Regulation is being introduced this summer by the MMO,

Forthcoming rule changes which will affect the fishing industry MMO provides advance information on changes to regulations affecting the UK fishing industry.

The MMO is providing an update on the upcoming changes to fisheries regulations to enable the fishing industry to prepare.

What is happening?

A new technical conservation regulation is due to be introduced this summer.
This regulation aims to reduce capture of juvenile fish and to minimise
environmental harm. The technical conservation regulation that is now in force
was launched in 1998 and will be superceded by the new rules following a review last year.

The new technical conservation regulation is much less prescriptive than the one
it replaces. It has also been changed to take into account Landing Obligation
rules. The amendments to the regulation now make rules regional – these are by area such as North Western Waters (Union waters of ICES sub-areas V, VI and VII) or North Sea (Union Waters of ICES divisions IIa, IIIa and IV).
The main effect of this change is to allow fishermen to work more flexibly. For
example, mesh sizes are now “minimum” sizes and do not prevent fishermen
from using larger mesh sizes if they want to. However, in some fisheries
fishermen may be required to use more selective gear, such as adding a square
mesh panel to their net.

The text of the amended technical conservation regulation has now been agreed
by European Member States and is expected to come into force during the
summer of 2019.

The MMO will be producing and promoting public guidance for fisheries affected
by changes in these rules.

 The MMO promoted the change in Landing Obligation rules for 2019 last autumn.
New gear requirements were introduced in the Irish Sea from 1st January 2019.
However, changes in gear requirements for some fisheries in the Celtic Sea area
only come into force on the 1st July 2019.

We would therefore like to remind fishermen working in this area that they need
to be aware of these rule changes. Guidance on the new rules for the Celtic Sea
is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/landing-obligation2019-rules-and-regulations, or you can speak to your local MMO office.

 The UK is currently working with other European countries to look at the possible introduction of “bycatch reduction plans”. Bycatch reduction plans are considered where zero catch (Total Allowable Catch) of a fish stock is recommended for a given year.

The aim of these plans is to reduce unavoidable bycatch and to help that stock to recover. Various measures to assist in reduction of bycatch are being considered and discussed with affected local fishing industry representatives. When these measures have been agreed, we will issue further communications on this.

What the Marine Management Organisation is doing

As explained in its compliance and enforcement strategy the MMO will provide
guidance and raise awareness of the rules as a first step to achieving compliance.

Work being carried out by the MMO so that it can support industry to understand and
comply with the changes includes:

- Working with the EC and Defra to gain understanding of the implications of legislation changes by location of fishing activity, sector and gear type
- Training staff so that they can provide advice and guidance to fishermen in person
- Working with fishing industry representatives to understand the best way to provide guidance to fishermen and help spread the word about the changes
- Producing tailored guidance and materials to help people understand how the changes may affect them
- Working with Devolved Administrations to send out clear and consistent information

Tuesday 21 May 2019

UK House of Lords to hear evidence on realism of discard ban.

On May 22 the UK parliament's House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee will take evidence from the bodies responsible for enforcing fisheries legislation in England and Scotland.

It is also likely to ask whether the agencies believe the new rules are being fully complied with, and whether they have sufficient resources to detect non-compliance. It will question Tom Robertson of Marine Scotland, and Phil Haslam, of the Marine Management Organisation.

Topics of discussion are likely to cover:

  • How many cases of non-compliance have been detected since Jan. 1 this year and what penalties have been awarded?
  • What steps have been put in place to monitor compliance with the landing obligation?
  • How much fish that is suitable for human consumption but over a fisher’s quota has been landed since January?
  • Are there concerns about the extent of the exemptions to the landing obligation, particularly from a conservation point of view?
  • Earlier this year the House of Lords found the UK's fishing industry remained unprepared for full implementation of the common fisheries policy's landing obligation.

Despite the long lead-in time, when the committee examined the issue in November and December 2018 they found little evidence of the landing obligation being followed to date, and an almost unanimous view that the UK was not ready for full implementation, said the committee.

"It cannot be right that, five years after legislation is agreed, the UK is in a position where it cannot enforce the law -- both because it does not have the tools to monitor compliance and because doing so could cause significant harm to the fishing industry," the committee wrote as part of its summary.

Full story courtesy of Undercurrentnews.



It’s early days for the landing obligation, given the magnitude of the changes involved. Ongoing patience and application will be required to address the many outstanding issues, as the new policy is fully integrated into the fisheries management system. The signs are, however, that the fishing industry is responding to the new incentive; improvements in selectivity and avoidance behaviours are widespread.

The reconvened House of Lords enquiry into the implementation of the landing obligation has focused attention on a number of interrelated questions:

  • Is the new legislation being complied with?
  • Is it reasonable to expect large tonnages of fish, previously discarded, to be landed?
  • Has sufficient weight been given to changes in selectivity and fishing behaviours, prior to and since the full implementation of the landing obligation?
  • What has the effect of the various mitigation measures been?
  • Has the problem of chokes* been dealt with?
  • A little-known NGO called Our Fish, has asserted that an analysis of catch composition of landings into Peterhead implies that large-scale discarding of cod could be read into the landing statistics. Even though this claim was based on a misreading of the catch compositions, the story was picked up by the Independent and echoed round the media for a while.

Many eyes are on our industry.

Retailers and the larger processors, in particular, are concerned about the reputational risk associated with buying fish from fisheries in which they cannot be sure that there is not continued discarding of quota species.

Compliance: Risk factors

We have known, from the outset, that monitoring the landings obligation across many thousands of vessels, operating at sea, would present a monumental challenge. Whilst some management authorities have said that the discard ban is, in effect, unenforceable, industry bodies, including the NFFO have pointed to Norway, where industry support for their form of a discard ban, well integrated into their management system, has been a major factor in its success.

The actual risk of illegal discarding of quota species is likely to vary by gear type, area of operation, mix of species encountered, access to quota and degree of choke risk, as well as skippers’ mind-set. In turn, choke risks will reflect the degree to which fishing opportunities have been set taking into account mixed fishery factors.

The scale of the challenge involved in monitoring and enforcing the landing obligation on many thousands of vessels operating across many different fisheries, has led some to consider that remote electronic monitoring (REM) provides a panacea. It does not.

Remote monitoring will have a role to play in some fisheries but as a recent conference organised by the Danish Government illustrated very well, the use of CCTV cameras, and other forms of remote surveillance, only really work when cameras, or the like, are invited on board vessels in order to better to demonstrate compliance. In other words, the use of cameras as a top-down big-brother panacea is unlikely to provide a solution for a series of practical, legal and ethical reasons. But in the right context, and within a collaborative system of co-management, REM can play a role and undoubtedly has a future. A considered and proportionate approach is required.

Industry Response

What has been the fishing industry’s response to the introduction of the new rules?

Although it is true that some of the more arcane aspects of the exemptions are not fully or widely understood, the signs are that there is broad awareness across the industry of the significance of the landing obligation. As a result, skippers feel under considerable pressure, and have felt for some years, to reduce unwanted catch. This has intensified changes in gear selectivity and fishing behaviours including:

  • Increased mesh size in use
  • Changes in gear geometry to increase selectivity
  • Changes in fishing behaviours
  • Movement away from areas in which there is increased risk of unwanted catch
  • Increased efforts to source relevant quota
  • In parallel, there has been encouragement by industry organisations for vessels to carry Cefas observers to demonstrate compliance. Some vessel operators, including the majority of the English North Sea whitefish fleet, have agreed to continue a trial system in which carry CCTV cameras to document catches.

It is important to remember that the overall purpose of the landing obligation is not to replace discarding large amounts of fish at sea, with landing equally large quantities of fish into the ports for low-value fishmeal. The purpose is to create an incentive to encourage vessels to find ways of reducing unwanted catch.

Landing fish previously discarded at sea, to see them reduced to low-value fishmeal, with associated financial and environmental costs, would be irrational at multiple levels. If done at scale, it would create a different kind of public scandal.

Small amounts of previously discarded fish can find its way into the market for bait in the various pot fisheries.

Continuity and Progress

Improved selectivity and avoidance didn’t begin with the landing obligation and will not end with its implementation. Improvement in selectivity is and has been an ongoing process.

Excluding fish below minimum size has been achieved in many fisheries. Selection by species presents more of a challenge. In mixed fisheries selectivity tends to be limited by the different body size/shape of the different species, although progress can be made by focussing on different species behaviours. The latest experiments and trials focus on the use of light and knowledge of different fish behaviours to achieve desired species separation.

In the North Sea ground-fish fisheries, ICES data shows that discards were reduced by 90% in the 20 years before the landing obligation came along.

A significant part of this reduction was due to changes in the selectivity profile of fishing gears and changes in fishing practices to eliminate fish below minimum landing size. The introduction of square mesh panels and, often voluntary, increased mesh size in particular played a role.

Likewise, in the ultra-mixed demersal fishery in the Celtic Sea, increased mesh size, avoiding fishing in haddock-rich areas at night has had a major effect on discard rates.

Highly selective gear adjusted to local conditions have, similarly, been developed in the Irish Sea and the North Sea nephrops fisheries. The gear selectivity project in Northern Ireland – where whiting bycatch is a particular challenge - is one of many initiatives across the UK, and indeed Europe. In the Northern Irish example, £750,000 has been spent on gear trials and scientific analysis to help fleets adapt to the landing obligation. Solutions have been found that work for some parts of the fleet and work is ongoing on others

Nearly every fishery has a similar positive story to tell.

Mitigation Measures

Although some of the choke mitigation measures permitted under Article 15 of the CFP Regulation, for example inter-species flexibility, have been more or less inoperable, other, more useful approaches have been developed. These have been critical in avoiding chokes in the first half of 2019. Mitigation measures adopted include:

  • De minimis exemptions - used where scope for selectivity improvements is limited, or costs are disproportionate. The exemptions, which permit a limited amount (max 7%) of continued discarding of the species concerned, vary in scale, location and gear-type
  • High Survival Exemptions – apply to stocks where the evidence suggests high levels of survival after return to the sea. Some high survival exemptions are time-limited and conditional. The exemptions for plaice and skates and rays are particularly significant
  • TAC Setting: choke risks can be reduced by an intelligent approach to setting TACs in mixed fisheries. The EU, working with ICES, has developed the concept of fishing mortality ranges, which allow fisheries managers a degree of flexibility in balancing competing priorities, including choke avoidance
  • TAC removal – where the TAC served no purpose and posed a major choke risk (Dab and Flounder)
  • Seabass, a species under a different form of catch limit, have been excluded from the landing obligation, avoiding the spectacle of tonnes of high value bass going for fishmeal
  • TAC uplifts to cover preciously discarded fish – time will tell whether these have been calculated correctly, given the patchy data on which they are based
  • A new innovation of bycatch quotas, adopted at the December Council, in which some quota is pooled to allow access for member states who have zero quotas of some species
  • New ways of dealing with zero catch advice in mixed fisheries, which involve TAC increases along with bycatch reduction initiatives
  • Exemptions are agreed each year as part of joint recommendations prepared by member states working together regionally and submitted to the Commission for approval. The Joint Recommendations being prepared by member states for the discard plans in 2020, amount to over 50 pages of scientific justification for the proposed de minimis and high survival exemptions. The scientific recommendations pass through a system of quality control by the Scientific Technical and Economic Committee (STECF).

Other useful flexibilities, not yet available are under development. One of the most promising of these could help to minimise chokes, by authorising landings of amounts of unavoidable bycatch, when a quota is exhausted and a choke situation arises. In these circumstances, the fish would be sold on the human consumption market instead of going for fishmeal but vessels would not receive the full value of the catch, removing any incentive to target these species. This approach is so far precluded by the CFP. There is provision however, for this approach in the Fisheries Bill now passing through Parliament and would be available to UK vessels after the UK industry is free of the Common Fisheries Policy and any transition period.

In summary, mitigation measures have been adopted and have been absolutely essential to ease the introduction of the new policy. And to the avoidance of chokes - so far.

Quota Swaps

The jury is still out on whether the established system of quota swaps and transfers, along with limited top-slicing and redistribution, will be sufficient to avoid category 2 chokes (where there is sufficient in the system but it’s in the wrong place to prevent a choke developing). Historically, the market has proved more adept at moving unutilised quota to where it is needed, whilst avoiding unintended consequences, by comparison with administrative decisions made at the centre of government.

The obvious answer to easing this type of choke risks in many of our fisheries lies in fairer UK allocations as the UK renegotiates its national shares, when it becomes an independent coastal state. Pending that rebalancing and readjustment, mechanisms will be necessary to move quota to where it is needed.

Rocketing lease and purchase prices for potential choke risk quotas in the first half of this year, are strongly indicative of the industry’s efforts to locate quota to cover the totality their catches and to avoid chokes.

Marine Stewardship Council

Many parts of the fishing industry are heavily engaged with the Marine Stewardship Council process across a range of species. Satisfying the overarching principles of MSC (particularly Principle 1 - Species, and Principle 3 - Management Systems) will facilitate deeper congruity between the objectives of the landing obligation and MSC certification.


Approaching the end of the first 6 months of the full implementation of the landing obligation, it’s possible to make some preliminary observations:

  • The landing obligation is the biggest change to the management system since quotas were introduced in 1983
  • The EU opted for a big-bang approach rather than the Norwegian species -by-species incremental approach
  • The design of the legislation introducing the landing obligation was sub-optimal, reflecting a dysfunctional decision-making process for the management of in European fisheries
  • The signs are that the fishing industry is responding to the new incentive to reduce unwanted catch; this is easier in some fisheries than others
  • It makes no financial or environmental sense to land large amounts of unwanted catch which go for fishmeal. The focus of the landing obligation is and should remain the reduction of unwanted catch through avoidance and selectivity
  • Mitigation measures have been absolutely critical in keeping the problem of chokes at bay; the second half of this year is likely to clarify whether enough has been done in this respect
  • Access to quota is of extreme relevance in avoiding chokes; the mechanisms, international and national, for moving unutilised quota are being kept under review
  • Responsibilities and Cooperation

Those who are being regulated, and those with responsibility for fisheries regulation, have a duty to continue to work together to overcome the not insubstantial implementation problems ahead. Such an enormous change takes time to adapt and to work through the issues as they arise. All those involved, including those throughout the supply chain, have a duty of care to those at the sharp end, as well as a responsibility to maintain momentum towards a workable landing obligation. In turn, the catching sector has a responsibility to demonstrate that it is adapting to the new regime.

Whatever the shortcomings of the EU landings obligation and the way it came about, there is genuine public concern about the waste involved in large scale discards and the catching sector has to demonstrate that it is doing its part. Even though it is early days and there remain many problems to resolve, the signs are that the fishing industry is facing up to that responsibility.


Ours is a complex, diverse, industry. There may be pockets of vessel operators who think that, even having accepted the quota uplifts associated with the landing obligation, they can carry on as they did in the past, by discarding unwanted catch. If such a minority exists, they are delusional and dangerous. Dangerous because carrying on as usual can only have one outcome – stock assessments that indicate increased fishing mortality, followed, as night follows day, by reductions in TACs. Delusional because, although few in number, they are in denial. This is a boomerang that will return very quickly. It will equally affect everyone: those who carry on business as usual, as well as those who make every attempt to reduce their unwanted catch.

Conclusions and Future

Given the scale of the changes involved, and taking into account flaws in the legislation, after six months, it is possible to say that the central purpose of the landing obligation – to incentivise reduction of unwanted catch of quota species is having an effect. Fishing vessels across the fleets are continuing to adapt their gears and fishing behaviours. The mitigation measures were still being shaped at the 11th hour, but they have been absolutely critical in dealing with some of the undesirable side effects of the landing obligation – most notably chokes in mixed fisheries. The second half of 2019 will inform us if enough has been done.

The key to dealing with the residual problem areas and maintaining momentum towards a workable and effective landing obligation, lies in a collaborative approach in which fisheries managers, the fishing industry and the whole supply chain, continue to work together to understand and deal with the issues as they arise.

A working group has been established to build a picture of how the industry is adapting to the landing obligation. The industry led group with Defra and MMO support, will:

  • Discuss and develop landing obligation initiatives such as Bycatch Reduction Plans (BCRPs), Fully Documented Fisheries (FDF) schemes and available CFP flexibilities;
  • Monitor the use of existing flexibilities and exemptions;
  • Discuss and develop future policy initiatives to continue reducing unwanted bycatch post-Brexit;
  • Assess upcoming choke risks and mitigation measures;
  • Identify and plan regional focus groups to work on the detail of the above points.
  • In parallel, an ongoing dialogue, between retailers, processors/buyers, the catching sector and Defra aims to keep everyone in the supply chain involved in identifying issues and working on solutions.

It is well understood that if we were doing all this again, we wouldn’t start with article 15 of EU Regulation 1380/13. We would take a different approach that would avoid some of the more obvious pitfalls. Given where we are, however, the most constructive approach is to work collaboratively and systematically.

In Europe, the advisory councils have begun to review how the legislation could be improved, conscious that the Commission will soon begin work on the next CFP reform. In the UK, the discussion also embraces what changes could be available when the UK has regulatory autonomy to design its own solutions.

In the meantime, we will deal with the issues as they arise in a pragmatic, proportionate and constructive way, conscious that discard policy is important but must fit into an overall management system which promotes sustainable fishing and supports fishing businesses and communities.

It is important that the landing obligation is aligned with the other elements of fisheries policy in a coherent and integrated whole. TAC setting rules, technical measures, financial support mechanisms, and control rules should all fit together (or at least not conflict). The Common Fisheries Policy is not yet at that stage. Without a coherent approach, life is made very difficult on the deck and in the wheelhouse.

Dealing collaboratively with the adversities generated by a flawed piece of legislation may yet, however, prove to be the vehicle for new forms of co-management.

*A choke occurs in a mixed fishery, when exhaustion of one quota would mean a vessel or fleet would have to tie up for the rest of the year, losing the economic benefit of its main fishing opportunities.

Full story courtesy of the NFFO.

Saturday 11 May 2019

Has the EU’s fish discard ban worked? Lords' Committee questions the fishing industry

Watch the Lord's Select Sub-Committee on EU Energy and Environment as it sought industry feedback on its 2019 report on the impact of full implementation of the EU Landing Obligation:

The EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee takes evidence from fishing organisations and the British Ports Association on the impact of the EU landing obligation.

Inquiry: Implementation and enforcement of the EU landing obligation
EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee
Wednesday 8 May in Committee Room 2, Palace of Westminster, at 10.30am

Bertie Armstrong, CEO, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation
Pete Bromley, Harbourmaster at Sutton Harbour and member of the British Ports Association’s Fishing Ports Group
Barrie Deas, CEO, National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations
Jeremy Percy, Director, New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association
Jim Pettipher, CEO, Coastal Producer Organisation


The EU landing obligation aims to put an end to the practice of discarding fish. 1.7 million tonnes of fish were being thrown back into the sea each year, because fishers were catching species they did not want or weren’t allowed to keep. Spurred on by a public petition (championed by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) that attracted 870,000 signatures, the EU agreed to legislation in 2013 that would require fishers to land everything they caught. The rules have been slowly phased in since 2015, and came into force in full on 1 January 2019.

In November and December 2018, the Sub-Committee took evidence from fisheries researchers, environmental campaign groups, the fishing industry, enforcement agencies and the Government on what had happened during the phasing-in period, what the impact of full implementation might be and how ready the UK was for implementation. The Sub-Committee published its report in February, in which it set out a number of concerns.

Areas of discussion

Sub-Committee Members will ask the attendees what impact the landing obligation has had, since it came into force in full in January 2019. In particular, Members are likely to ask:

  • Whether fishers are complying with the new rules
  • Whether the industry’s concern that the new rules would result in people quickly running out quota (and so having to stop fishing) have been realised
  • Whether ports have seen significant amounts of additional fish landed, that would previously have been discarded
  • Whether fish buyers and retailers are asking for proof that the new rules are being compiled with

Thursday 28 February 2019

All presentations from the #DiscardLess2019 science-policy conference January are now online! Check them at


Session I: Landing Obligation: where are we now, what has changed, and what are the main barriers? (13:00 - 15:10)

Session lead: Mike Fitzpatrick (Ireland) and Kåre Nolde Nielsen (Norway)
12:30 - Registration
13:00 - Opening and welcomeAnders Overgaard Bjarklev, President of DTU and Clara Ulrich, DiscardLess coordinator
13:20 - FAO assessment of global fisheries discardsAmparo PerezRoda (FAO)
13:30 - Looking back: stories of EU regions between 2015 and 2018Mike Fitzpatrick (Ireland), Kåre Nolde Nielsen (Norway)
13:40 - Can a discard ban be good for fishers? Modelling expected economic impactsAyoe Hoff (Denmark)
13:50 - Legitimate or not legitimate policy? the opinion of EU fishersKatia Frangoudes (France)
14:00 - TAC management and choke effects in IrelandJulia Calderwood (Ireland)
14:10 - Table Discussion
15:10 - Coffee (1/2h)

Session II: Selectivity and Avoidance (15:40 - 18:00)

Session lead: Dave Reid (Ireland) and Barry O’Neill (Denmark)
15:40 - Start of session
15:40 - The Discard Mitigation Toolbox: DiscardLess results onlineJérôme Guitton (France)
15:50 - Review of déjà vu selective gearsBarry O’ Neill (Denmark)
16:00 - Bright ideas – shining a light on selectivityDan Watson (UK)
16:10 - Overcoming economic barriers to selective gear uptakeAna Witteveen (UK)
16:20 - Questions on selectivity talks
16:25 - Try it by yourself: Challenges experiments to avoid discardsDave Reid (Ireland)
16:35 - Maps and AppsToni Quetglas (Spain)
16:45 - Is it possible to avoid deep sea sharks in the Azores?Laurence Fauconnet (Portugal)
16:55 - Next steps (Panel debate / discussion)
18:00 - Wrap-up and close for the day
18:30 : Reception at DTU 202 Biosphere with meal, drinks and exhibits
21:00 - 21:30 - Busses to the city centre



Session III: What to do with unavoidable unwanted catches? (9:30 - 11:30)

Session lead: Erling P. Larsen (Denmark) and Jónas R. Viðarsson (Iceland)
09:30 - Start of session. Coffee at disposal from 09:00
09:30 - How do Iceland manage to use 85% of a cod?Jónas R. Viðarsson (Iceland)
09:40 - Where to invest best? Catalogue of uses and prioritisationBruno Iñarra (Spain)
09:50 - We are ready for discards… if they comePeter Nymann (Denmark)
10:00 - Small landings in small harboursGeorge Triantaphyllidis (Greece)
10:10 - Transforming unwanted catches in responsible animal feed solutionGeert Bruggeman (Belgium)
10:20 - An automatic system for by-catches quantification and classificationBruno Iñarra (Spain)
10:30 - Handling unwanted catches onboardBirgir Sævarsson (Iceland)
10:40 - Next steps (Panel debate / discussion)
11:30 - Coffee + light lunch (1h)

Session IV: Ecological effects of discarding (12:30 - 13:45)

Session lead: Marie Savina-Rolland (France) and Telmo Morato (Portugal)
12:30 - Start of session
12:30 - Discard data, MSY and stock assessment: Lisa Borges (Portugal)
12:40 - Measuring and improving the survival of discardsTom Catchpole (UK)
12:50 - But who eat them? A story of hagfish and crabsDave Reid (Ireland)
13:00 - Can a discard ban have an effect on the food-web?Marie Savina-Rolland (France)
13:15 - The dark side of the selectivity paradigmFisheries-Induced Evolution: Richard Law (UK)
13:25 - Next steps (Discussion)
13:45 - End of session

Session V: Future perspectives for the Landing Obligation (13:45 - 15:30)

Session lead: Lisa Borges (Portugal) and Clara Ulrich (Denmark)
13:45 - Start of session
13:45 - CAM-pliance: Keeping an eye on discards with Electronic MonitoringKristian Schreiber Plet-Hansen (Denmark)
13:55 - Visit and speechEva Kjer Hansen, Danish Minister for Fisheries and Equal Opportunities and Minister for Nordic Cooperation
14:10 - What DNA can do for you! Genetic methods and the Landing ObligationBrian Klitgaard Hansen (Denmark)
14:20 - Yes Chile can! Discards reduction and monitoring in mixed-fisheriesLuis Cocas (Chile)
14:30 - Next steps for the Landing Obligation and looking towards the next CFP reform (Discussion)
15:30 - Conference Closing

Thursday 17 January 2019

Prohibit fish discards: the stakes of the new regulation

This article (translated by Google) is from LaRecherche

Since January 2019, the "landing obligation" prohibits fishermen from discarding unwanted fish at sea. The European DiscardLess project assessed the effect of discards on the marine environment, the economy and society. Its coordinator, Clara Ulrich , answers the questions from La Recherche.

Research - What prompted the landing obligation?

Clara Ulrich - The idea of ​​this regulation came from the fact that we could not regulate the mortality of fish. As long as discards were still allowed, it was not possible to limit mortality in mixed fisheries, which target and capture a large number of different species at the same time. For each fish population, scientists estimate what is the sustainable volume (in tonnes) of dead fish by fishing ( RMD). The purpose of the landing obligation is that the total dead fish does not exceed this sustainable threshold, regardless of whether they are sold, brought ashore or processed into fishmeal. Before the measure, if the fishing quota was set, for example, at 50,000 tonnes, 60,000 or 70,000 tonnes could be fished and the rest discarded. We continued to fish as long as we still had quotas for other species and we rejected what we no longer had the right to land. British culinary celebrities have begun campaigning against this mess. The idea was supported by environmental NGOs and civil society. The reform of the fisheries policy was passed in 2013. The implementation of the landing obligation started in 2015. Gradually, it came into force in the countries of the different maritime regions. The goal was to have it all in 2019. Major commercial species like cod, sole, Norway lobster etc. were first concerned. All minor species, that is, less important in fisheries such as turbot, were included in the regulation in 2019.

What is your opinion on this new regulation?

This is a fundamental change in the way we understand fishing and its regulation. The rejection is a fundamental characteristic of the manner of fishing. For a long time, we have been fishing and we only keep what we can sell by putting the rest back in the water. This behavior has been reinforced by European policy which introduced regulations on minimum catch sizes and quotas. The stricter rules on what can be sold have, de facto , created fairly large releases. The landing obligation has a major economic, technical, psychological and cultural effect. It creates a shock to force change to cleaner fisheries instead of catching everything and rejecting the rest.

How to strengthen the landing obligation to reduce discards?

There is no single solution. The reasons for these rejections are relatively simple and universal. Fishermen reject either because it has no commercial value, it is damaged, or it is too small for sale; or it is forbidden to fish for the species. But the solutions to reduce these rejections, they are neither simple nor universal. Each fisherman will have a problem that is not necessarily the same as that of his neighbor. It will depend on the fishing area and the quota to which it has access. For each species, scientists estimate the discard rate. The rate is lower in industrial fisheries limited to a single species of fish such as mackerel or herring. The highest rate is for fisheries that use bottom trawl andbeam trawl . The statistics depend on the country, the gear and the neighboring species. It's very difficult to generalize. The change in fishing practice requires regulatory control.

How will the landing obligation now introduced throughout Europe be applied?

The regulation provides for a number of exemptions for species with a high survival rate or where it is almost impossible to sort the fish. But these exemptions must be validated. Thus, it must be proven that a species has a high survival rate. For five years, several works have been carried out. For example, research shows that rays and sharksare species that survive relatively well if released quickly. The fact that the fish is all wriggling is not enough to guarantee its survival. Most of the mortality occurs within two to three days. A fish that has remained on the deck of a boat, exposed to the air and light, is not very valiant. He will have a hard time escaping predators and feeding himself. The speed of sorting is an important factor. If he is released immediately, he will survive; but after thirty minutes in the air, it's less obvious. The temperature of the air, the sunshine, etc. are also important elements to consider in assessing survival.

How to prevent unwanted catch and value?

With the European project DiscardLesswe looked at it. It is funded by the Research and Innovation Department of the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 program. Scientists from 31 European research institutions have proposed solutions: changing net mesh, changing the trawl, and so on. There are many technical approaches but none are really used at the moment. We put the information on the table, but the change must come from the industry and the fishermen. As long as the fishermen are not convinced, or obliged to change the mesh, we can do all the science possible, there will be no change. The Spanish team of DiscardLess has done a lot of research on the valuation of unwanted fish. They could be used to make flour, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals. For now, the proposals remain theoretical because volumes are low. The regulations are not yet applied and therefore the fish are not brought back to shore. The idea of ​​valorization is a little history of the chicken and the egg. What will come first? Will the fishermen go back to the land and then develop the recovery or will they bring back to shore only when there will be someone to buy the unwanted fish The fishermen and the industrialists wonder if it's worth it invest in the recovery knowing that the supply of raw material may be very variable in quality and quantity. They wonder why invest in industries if in five years there are more rejections.

What will happen to marine animals feeding on discards?

All our models show that very few rejections go directly back to the fish. Those who eat the discards are crabs, hermit crabs, starfish. They are very opportunistic animals. They will eat everything they find. Their dependence on discards remains very low. There are also birds that are more reliant on discards, but it's a bit like birds in a garbage dump. Bird populations are maintained at a fairly high level artificially. Is the fact that there are birds feeding in landfills a good reason for keeping landfills? The situation for rejections is identical. We have populations that are artificially maintained. Is it a good excuse to keep rejecting? Scientists will continue to assess the effects of the landing obligation as it applies to fisheries.

Full article courtesy of Audrey-Maude Vézina.

Sunday 6 January 2019

A new European policy bans the practice of discarding fish.

Controversial European policy bans ships from throwing unwanted fish overboard

Long before fillets reach your dinner plate, lots of seafood is thrown away. Overboard, actually. As fishing crews sort through their catches, they toss unwanted fish back into the sea—as much as 20% of the global catch. The vast majority die. On 1 January, the wasteful practice became illegal in waters of the European Union. Scientists believe the policy will lead to more efficient fisheries and eventually boost stocks. But in the short term it could mean hardship for the industry and perhaps even compromise fisheries data, because almost all crews can discard fish without anyone knowing. “This is one of the most dramatic changes in EU fisheries policy,” says Peder Andersen, an economist at the University of Copenhagen.

Read the The European Landing Obligation "Reducing Discards in Complex, Multi-Species and Multi-Jurisdictional Fisheries" by 
Editors: Sven Sebastian, Uhlmann Clara and Ulrich Steven J. Kennelly 
Regulators began to phase in the discard ban, formally known as the Landing Obligation, in 2015. To ease the pain, they started with vessels that didn’t discard much because they catch schools of herring and other single species. Now comes the bigger challenge: fisheries where many species live together, such as those in the North Sea. When vessels drag nets near or along the bottom, they end up with a jumble of species and sizes. Until now, vessels only kept the valuable portion of their catch. The discarding of young fish, which haven’t yet reproduced much, has been a particular impediment to sustainability. Under the ban, fishing vessels must bring back all regulated species, a significant headache. More time will be spent sorting fish, as even the unwanted ones must be tallied and brought to port. Holds will fill up faster, meaning more trips to sea and higher fuel costs. And unwanted fish will be sold for a fraction of the price of the normal catch, if it can be sold at all. The hope is that the ban will incentivise vessels to adopt more selective fishing gear or strategies.

A second problem for industry is that the ban creates the prospect of “choke species” that threaten to shut down fishing. In a fishery with a mix of species, a vessel might catch the same proportion of species each time it trawls, despite varying quotas for the allowed catch of each. Before the discard ban, this wasn’t a problem: Fishers could keep catching haddock and whiting, for example, even after reaching their cod quota. They simply threw away, legally, any new cod caught.

Now, vessels will have to stop fishing once they reach their quota for choke species like cod in some places. Haddock or whiting quotas will go unused—a lost economic opportunity. “Choke species are a huge problem,” says Daniel Voces de Onaindi, managing director of Europêche, a lobbying group in Brussels. “We’re talking about destroying boats, and unemployment.” The discard ban does exempt species, such as Norway lobster, that typically survive after they are returned to the water. And last month, EU fisheries ministers boosted quotas for five species, despite scientific advice to protect these stocks.

Still, case studies from DiscardLess, an EU-funded research project that wraps up this month, suggest the fishing industry could suffer losses on the order of 10% for several years if the ban is enforced.

Over the longer term, the discard ban will boost fish stocks and benefit the overall ecosystem, according to modelling led by Marie Savina-Rolland of the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea, an oceanographic research centre in Lorient. That could eventually translate to higher quotas and profits, says Andersen, who co-led economic research for the DiscardLess project.

The ban could also stimulate more research on new fishing gear and tactics to avoid unwanted catches. Researchers have already shown benefits from separator trawls, which have a horizontal panel at the opening. Haddock and whiting tend to swim upward when the trawl approaches. The panel diverts them into an upper net, whereas cod and monkfish are collected by a lower net. Unwanted species can escape through an opening in the net. Equipping fishing gear with light-emitting diodes can also help reduce by-catch, DiscardLess researchers have found, by discouraging some unwanted species from entering trawl nets. But these techniques also lose some of the commercial catch, so industry has not adopted them widely. “It’s rare to get a situation where you can avoid unwanted sizes or species and not pay a penalty with the fish you do want,” says David Reid, a fisheries ecologist at the Marine Institute in Oranmore, Ireland.

More quota trading could also help industry cope. If a vessel or fleet has run out of quota to catch cod in its mixed trawls, for example, it could offer its quota of whiting to a fleet with the opposite problem. Last month, EU fisheries ministers increased pressure on nations to start trading quotas. “It’s basically banging their heads together and saying you must swap quotas for this to work,” says Andrew Clayton, who directs the Pew Charitable Trusts’s campaign to end overfishing in northwest Europe and is based in London.

Few expect all fishing vessels to obey the discard ban. “Put yourself in the boots of a fishermen who can see he will run out of quota for a species. If he does, he would have to tie up for the rest of the year. He might have to sell the boat, or sell the house,” says Barrie Deas, CEO of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations in York, U.K. “What’s he going to do?”

Scofflaws could jeopardise not just fish stocks, but also data about how they are faring. Researchers, who suggest catch levels to regulators, get their discard data largely from independent observers on just a few boats—less than 1% of the EU fleet. Observed boats are now likely to discard much fewer fish than other vessels, leaving an official undercount of the discard rate and a falsely rosy picture of how heavily stocks are fished, says Lisa Borges, a fisheries biologist who runs a consultancy called FishFix in Lisbon. “It could bring about a very big, negative change,” Borges says. “I get very worried about European fisheries management.”

Environmentalists want to toughen up enforcement by installing cameras on ships, the practice in New Zealand and a few other places with discard bans. But Voces de Onaindi says this is impractical on some vessels and raises privacy concerns. The lesson from countries where discard bans have succeeded, including Norway and Iceland, Andersen says, is that the gradual introduction of incentives and controls—to develop the economic use of unwanted fish, and create a culture of regulatory compliance—lessens conflict but can take decades to achieve.

Read here for more articles by Erik Stokstad. This was published on Jan. 4, 2019.