New Manual Published To Help European Fisheries Reduce Discards

Environmental Defense Fund releases tools to help fisheries comply with EU Fishing Law

March 24, 2015
Matt Smelser, (202) 572-3272,

(LONDON – March 24, 2015) Environmental Defense Fund has developed a manual available free of charge to all fishermen, fishery managers and officials in the European Union that provides tools to help fisheries reduce waste, known as discards, as a part of their landing obligation under the Common Fishery Policy (CFP) passed in 2013.

Being forced to dump fish overboard has been an unavoidable practice for fishermen in Europe and around the world for decades. This practice, “discarding,” is one that is abhorred by the fishing industry, environmental groups and consumers alike.

“We believe this manual is the first of its kind in the EU, and we hope it helps bring new fisheries management tools to the discussion on ending discarding, as well as expanding on opportunities offered by existing tools,” said Melanie Siggs, senior director for Environmental Defense Fund’s EU Oceans program. “The approaches outlined in the guide are tangible ways for fishermen to harness their innovative skills and make this legislation work for them. Successful implementation is critical to our fisheries and those who depend upon them.”

Environmental Defense Fund’s user-friendly manual provides tools and case studies to aid fishermen and fishery managers as they work together to develop proposals and find solutions that support the phasing out of discards while ensuring fisheries remain viable.

“The challenge of successfully implementing the landings obligation without bankrupting a large sector of the European fleet cannot be overstated,” said John Goodlad, an international fisheries expert based in Scotland.“The Environmental Defense Fund’s discard manual describes some very practical tools and measures which have worked elsewhere in the world.”

The approximately 50-page manual is categorized by two key approaches. The first section outlines tools that help ensure Member States use their available catch quota in the smartest way possible through well-designed, robust quota management systems. Some of the smart tools outlined include: transferability of quota; substituting one species’ quota to cover catch of a different species based on a weighted formula; quota pools (where fishermen cooperatively pool their species quota together); and buffer quotas (where a portion of quota is set aside for later use). Such tools demonstrate the benefits of giving fishers more of a stake in their fishery.

The second section of the manual focuses on changes in the day-to-day operation of the fishing industry, such as by introducing avoidance measures – techniques that can reduce discarding. The measures presented include fishing at different depths and gear switching by using new technologies, real-time spatial and temporal closures which are ad-hoc temporary closures that avoid areas with high juvenile catch rates or “hot spots” of overfished species.

The strategies discussed for reducing discards will vary depending on the needs and characteristics of the different fisheries, and will continuously evolve as the landing obligation is phased in. The manual is not prescriptive; rather, it discusses different options that can be tailored to the specific needs and diversity of EU fisheries.

The tools are supplemented with a section on how to achieve fully documented fisheries as a precursor to meeting landing obligation requirements and using these tools successfully. The manual recommends that appropriate pilot projects be developed to test these tools and full documentation options, helping the fishing industry and Member States to explore genuine bottom-up solutions that provide robust fisheries for the future.

The manual includes case studies of several fisheries that have successfully reduced discards under new management. These case studies include the Danish Fisheries Traceability System; and the UK North Sea and English Channel Discard Pilot Projects, which have lowered their discard rates to 0% and 6% respectively.

“All of these suggestions can be a huge help to the fishing industry and fisheries managers as they look at how best to implement the Landings Obligation. I therefore welcome this valuable and timely Environmental Defense Fund initiative,” added Goodlad.

For more information on this manual and Environmental Defense Fund’s wider suite of toolkits aimed at supporting the design and implementation of resilient, profitable and sustainable fisheries management systems please visit:

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