Reports: Spain, France, and Denmark failing to enforce discard ban

Published on
October 15, 2019

The E.U. landing obligation has not been adequately applied in Spain, France, and Denmark, and the same countries are also failing to punish those violating the rules, according to new reports released by environmental lawyers at ClientEarth.

After a phasing-in period that started in 2015, the landing obligation became compulsory for all E.U. countries in January 2019. With some exemptions, the rules apply to all fish stocks subject to catch limits and to minimum conservation reference Size (MCRS) requirements.

However, ClientEarth’s three country-specific reports say that Denmark, France, and Spain have neither adopted the necessary control measures nor mechanisms that account for all catches including discards. The NGO also said the lack of sanctions in the three countries in 2017 and 2018 indicate that the discard ban is not being properly enforced.

Specifically, the reports found that the reporting obligations for French fishers with respect to the landing obligation were not fully implemented until 2019, after more than four years of delays, and no infringement of the discard ban was sanctioned by French authorities. A pilot project to use remote electronic monitoring to control the landing obligation is being planned for 2020.

For Spain, no infringement of the landing obligation was sanctioned for 2017 and 2018, and the country reports very low catches and landings of fish below the minimum conservation size. ClientEarth acknowledged that resistance towards the discard ban from the nation’s fishing industry and lack of transparency make the implementation difficult, but the authorities are making efforts to improve the selectivity of fishing gears.

In Denmark, authorities reported only three infringements of the landing obligation in 2017 and 2018 and less than 1 percent of the catches in the important cod fishery are subject to inspection at sea. It was further found that in 2018, 382 metric tons (MT) of fish were discarded legally, due to exemptions to the discard ban decided by the authorities.

“Some very concrete solutions exist to ensure that no fish is discarded, including equipping fishing vessels with remote electronic monitoring system like CCTV or net sensors. We encourage all public authorities to adopt these tools and apply sanctions to stop fish discards,” said Elisabeth Druel, fisheries lawyer at ClientEarth.

According to Druel, as long as discarding continues, authorities will not know how many fish are being killed at sea, and without that data, scientists cannot make the right estimates to protect fish stocks.

“Discarding can result in the unnecessary death of millions of tons of fish every year. This is disastrous for fish stocks, our ocean ecosystem and the fishing industry,” Druel said.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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