New EU fisheries discard ban gets underway

European fishermen targeting certain demersal species such as haddock, sole and plaice must now land their entire catch following the introduction of the next phase of the wider EU landing obligation, or “discard ban,” whether or not it fits their allocated quota.

Implemented on 1 January, the demersal discard ban is the second such measure to be introduced by EU member states in a bid to end the wasteful practice of discarding non-quota catch at sea. A pelagic landing obligation was introduced a year ago for those fishermen targeting mid-water species such as blue whiting, herring and mackerel.

To support industry and to help fishermen adapt, the ban is being gradually introduced along with a number of flexibilities such as more freedom to bank and borrow quota. In addition, funding for new fishing gear has been made available.

A complete ban on the discarding of all quota species will be in place by 2019.

“It is essential that we put an end to discarding, and the start of the demersal ban marks a significant milestone in achieving this,” said George Eustice, U.K. fisheries minister. 

“We fought hard to achieve the discard ban through our reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) – it is one of the most important changes to fisheries management since the creation of the CFP and is crucial to making our fishing more sustainable.

“Together with careful quota management, the discard ban will help us to achieve our shared ambitions of a profitable fishing industry by protecting our fish stocks for the future and safeguarding a healthy marine environment.”

To help its fishermen adapt to the ban, the U.K. government secured larger quotas from the European Commission at last month’s annual EU Fisheries and Agriculture Council in Brussels, Belgium. These increases take into account the fact that discarding should no longer be occurring.

It also got exemptions to the discard ban, which are based on the survivability of a species if returned to the sea once caught or the costs of handling undersized fish onshore.

Furthermore, through European Maritime and Fisheries Funding (EMFF), those adapting to the discard ban may be able to part-fund the purchase or development of innovative gear for more selective fishing or to help develop new markets for fish that were previously discarded.


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