This Policy Brief provides an overview of the current status, initial experiences, barriers, and opportunities with regard to applying the LO in mixed demersal fisheries in the North Sea, North Western Waters and South Western Waters, the Mediterranean and the Azores. This area covers the all DiscardLess case studies, including the North Sea/West of Scotland, Celtic Sea, Eastern Channel & Bay of Biscay, the western and eastern Mediterranean, and the Azores. In quota managed fisheries, Mixed demersal fisheries provide the biggest challeng (...)
This Policy Brief provides an overview of the current status, initial experiences, barriers, and opportunities with regard to applying the LO in mixed demersal fisheries in the North Sea, North Western Waters and South Western Waters, the Mediterranean and the Azores. This area covers the all DiscardLess case studies, including the North Sea/West of Scotland, Celtic Sea, Eastern Channel & Bay of Biscay, the western and eastern Mediterranean, and the Azores. In quota managed fisheries, Mixed demersal fisheries provide the biggest challenge for implementation of the LO due to the difficulty of matching quotas with catches for multiple species which are caught simultaneously but in varying proportions.
The policy brief reviews where we are with the LO now and what the main issues are. The main orientation of the policy brief is forward looking: what do stakeholders and researchers consider as the main approaches are to deal with the issues in each region until the next CFP reform? To conclude, we take a longer perspective, providing suggestions for how to implement a workable discard policy with the next reform of the CFP.
The Policy Brief is written for policy makers, the fishing industry, NGO’s and citizens with an interest in fisheries management and is based on policy documents, stakeholder interviews, meetings and literature.
Box 1: Report Highlights
- Implementation of the LO is occurring across all DiscardLess case studies with measures such as trials of selective gears, provision of information on implementation requirements and the use of exemptions among the aspects most evident.
- There is very little evidence to date of changes in discard rates or fishing practices although that is not confirmation that these are not occurring but reflects a lack of data to draw such conclusions at present.
- Recording of discards under exemptions and unwanted catches remains lower than expected although there is evidence of some increase in these practices in early 2019.
- It is difficult to assess whether changes in fishing practices to promote selectivity and avoid discards are taking place. Given some delays in sanctioning and gradual uptake of new gears (e.g. for trawlers catching Baltic Cod), recent changes to permitted gears (e.g. new mesh size and TCM requirements in the Celtic Sea) and the upcoming implementation of the new Technical Measures framework some improvements in selectivity and discard rates would be expected.
- The quality of discard data is not improving due to industry fears about the potential negative impact of providing discard data and subsequent decrease in observer coverage in some Member States. Stakeholders across all backgrounds have expressed concerns about the risks associated with potential rises in fishing mortality.
- Concerns about efficient and effective monitoring of the LO are increasingly being channeled into calls for electronic monitoring across all fleets or on a risk assessment basis. These calls are particularly strong in some MS such as Denmark.
- A move towards a Results Based Management approach involving electronic monitoring is being advocated with some industry stakeholders specifying that it would require changes to the LO in order for it to gain industry support.
- Despite a general negative attitude towards the LO among fishers contributions to the final DiscardLess conference in January 2019 including from fishers outlined both positives, such as the incentivising of change, as well as implementation barriers. These are described in greater detail in Section 8.2 below.
Box 2: The methods/approaches followed
- Interviews with a broad range of stakeholders from Commission level, through national administrators, industry and NGO representatives and individual fishermen.
- Participation in relevant national, regional and EU meetings.
- Analysis of relevant policy statements, regulatory documents and academic literature.
Box 3: How these results can be used and by who?
- The policy brief on guidelines for the implementation of the discard policy in European regions is of interest to stakeholders at all levels in EU fisheries as the question of what is actually happening with the LO in other fisheries and regions is asked regularly.
Box 4: Policy Recommendations
- Data shortfalls make it difficult to make a reliable assessment of the extent of LO implementation and it’s impact. Improvements in the following areas of data provision would greatly assist with this assessment process.
- Recording of discards and unwanted catches at vessel level is poor across all case studies and has been identified by STECF as the most significant problem with monitoring LO implementation. MS will have to develop stronger accounting measures based on last haul analysis if this trend continues.
- As part of annual reporting on LO implementation MS should provide data not just on selectivity trials undertaken but also on the uptake rates for the use of such gears beyond trial situations. This would allow assessments of changes in selectivity patterns within fisheries to be made.
- The uptake rates of selective gears could be potentially accelerated by incentivising their use with additional quota.
- Negative industry attitudes towards the LO across all case studies point to the necessity to find workable discard reduction plans at regional level. The evolving regionalisation process which now incorporates technical measures, multi-annual plans, discard plans and in some cases bycatch reduction plans may provide the necessary framework to overcome industry fears particularly regarding choke closures.
- Reduced uncertainty regarding the use of measures such as inter-species flexibility and it’s effect on relative stability would assist with mitigating potential chokes.
- The need for effective monitoring and control of the LO is clear. Calls for the use of electronic monitoring as the solution will also require some degree of industry acceptance in order for this to be viable. Implementing an electronic monitoring approach either on a risk basis or as part of a wider results-based management approach could make this a more feasible option.