Thursday, 6 June 2019

Discard Action Group - presentations

Discard Action Group - presentations from 2 April 2019 meeting are online. Next meeting likely to be October 2019.

Thank you to all those who attended the Discard Action Group meeting on Tuesday 2 April 2019. There were some really informative presentations on the implementation of the landing obligation and how to evidence compliance. In the afternoon we had selectivity at the forefront with footage of the selectivty devices being used by David Milne, Jimmy Buchan, James Stephen and Adam Robertson and this prompted an interactive Q&A session with these skippers.

All the presentations are on the Karen Green by Monday 24 June.
We are planning to hold the next DAG meeting in October 2019. Date TBC. See the revised Term of Reference for DAG here

House of Lords enquiry into the impact of the landing obligations + new regulations to note.

For the background see 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?

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. Without being able to discard fish, fishers may reach their quotas much earlier in the year – particularly in 'mixed fisheries' where it will be hard to avoid catching a species for which there may be a very low quota. The Committee heard that fishers could hit their quota for some species in some areas within a few weeks of the landing obligation coming into force, forcing them to choose between not fishing for the rest of the year (which would have serious financial implications for them) and breaking the law by continuing to fish for other species and discarding anything caught over quota. The report was published on 8 February 2019 and the Government response received 4 April 2019. The Committee has been following up on the concerns raised during its earlier inquiry,

The EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee took evidence from fishing organisations and the British Ports Association on the impact of the EU landing obligation. 8 May 2019. Witnesses were: Bertie Armstrong, SFF; Pete Bromley, BPA; Barrie Deas, NFFO; Jeremy Percy, NUFFTA; and Jim Pettipher, CPO. The best way to cope with quota shortages that threaten to create choke species is to revisit relative stability and change the current quota shares that the UK receives under the CFP. As well as concerns over EU quota shares, the industry representatives called for better communication with the industry, and for the MMO to manage the discards ban better for the under-10m fleet. They emphasised how much fishermen have done in terms of changing their fishing patterns and using more selective gear, to avoid unwanted catches. The general view was that the landing obligation has not had much impact so far, and that choke species had been avoided up to now. Mitigation tools such as de minimis and high survivability had been very important in preventing early chokes, as had measures agreed at the December Council. But there was concern that problems will arise later in the year, when quotas start to be used up and quota trading and transfers become more difficult and expensive because there will be a reluctance to let quota go, both internally and internationally.

TheCommittee took evidence from the bodies responsible for enforcing fisheries legislation in England and Scotland. 22 May 2019. Witness was Phil Haslam of the Marine Management Organisation. The committee asked the enforcement agencies what steps they are taking to ensure compliance with the landing obligation and what challenges they face. Also whether the agencies believe the new rules are being fully complied with, and whether they have sufficient resources to detect non-compliance. The MMO reported that since the landing obligation fully entered into force on 1 January 2019 it had carried out 93 vessel inspections. UK authorities have detected 57 ‘issues’ around discards since the ban entered into force. The vast majority of these have been treated not as infringements of the law, but of issues needing correction; largely centered around poor data capture. Though it is called the landing obligation, there are still situations where vessels are exempt from landing every single fish they catch. Chiefly, all quota species must be landed. As of 22 May, 56 metric tons of over-quota fish have been landed by English vessels, up from 33t y-o-y -- though this was largely down to one major haul of Nephrops.

The Committee will take evidence from the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as part of its ongoing inquiry into the implementation of the EU landing obligation. 5 June 2019. The Committee will ask the Minister about the number of exemptions to the landing obligation that have been agreed, which will make it easier for fishers to comply but reduce the impact the legislation can have on discarding. The Committee are also likely to press the Minister on how the Government is ensuring that the rules are complied with, and ask whether a lack of compliance (coupled with the various exemptions) could result in harm to fish stocks through overfishing.


MMO blog. Forthcoming rule changes which will affect the fishing industry. 30 May 2019.

A new technical conservation regulation is due to be introduced this summer. This regulation aims to reduce the capture of juvenile fish and minimise environmental harm. 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 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. In general, the aim is to encourage the use of more selective gears and to allow fishermen more flexibility in what gear they use. Larger regional baseline mesh sizes will be introduced. Smaller mesh sizes for certain fisheries are allowed, providing certain gear selectivity and bycatch requirements are met. The MMO will be issuing public guidance on the GOV.UK website.

New discard plans for certain demersal fisheries. 4 June 2019.

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/905 of 13 March 2019 amending Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/2034 establishing a discard plan for certain demersal fisheries in North-Western waters for the period 2019-2021.

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/906 of 13 March 2019 amending Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/2035 specifying details of implementation of the landing obligation for certain demersal fisheries in the North Sea for the period 2019-2021.