Discards – where fish are thrown away at sea – have been virtually eliminated by fishermen taking part in current trials, according to the latest catch quota report from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
The report, released today, November 30, shows discards of important stocks such as sole, cod, plaice, megrim and anglerfish have been drastically reduced in the trials carried out by the MMO through 2012 with North Sea and West Channel fishermen.
This year's trials have increased both the number of vessels and the number of species involved since beginning in 2011.
The MMO is operating the trials on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as part of the UK’s initiative to tackle the problem of discarding fish – where fish are thrown away at sea if they are too small or there is no quota left for a particular species.
The MMO's report details how the practice could be an alternative method of managing fisheries, at a time when the Common Fisheries Policy is undergoing reform. The trials encourage fishermen to fish more selectively and land all of what they catch. Participating vessels were provided with additional quota that amounted to three quarters of the amount typically discarded in these fisheries.
Fishery Average discard rate (%) Trial discard rate (%)
North Sea cod trawl fishery 38 0.2
Area VIIe sole beam trawl fishery 28 0.1
Area VIId and e beam trawl fishery 8 0.2
Area VII anglerfish beam trawl fishery 6 1.1
Area VII megrim beam trawl fishery 12 1.3
Seven vessels took part in the trials in the South West along with twelve in the North Sea. The boats were not permitted to discard any of the species in the trials, including those below the minimum size. They had to land all of the fish of these species that they caught so they all counted against their quota. Data from onboard monitoring equipment, including CCTV cameras, was used to check the conditions of the trial were adhered to.
Catches of undersized fish in the trial were also low, suggesting that boats are fishing more selectively.
James Cross, Chief Executive of the MMO, said: "This is really good news for all those interested in a long-term, sustainable future for our fishing industry. By working with fishermen to develop innovative solutions, we hope to reduce waste of our marine resources while increasing healthy seas and fish stocks for the future."
"The excellent results of the latest trials show how important working together can be for finding alternative ways of managing fisheries."
Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said: “I am delighted that these results show that the UK continues to lead the way in Europe in trialling schemes which tackle discards through managing fisheries by what is caught, not what is landed. I am keen for these trials to be rolled out to other fisheries in advance of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.
“Discarding perfectly good fish is a waste of our natural resources. My aim is to create sustainable fisheries around the UK which are good for the environment and for fishermen at the same time.”
Andrew Pillar, Fleet Manager at Interfish based in Plymouth, has three vessels in the trial. He said: “It’s important that these trials have involved fishermen from the start to see how practical measures can improve selectivity and reduce discards. We want to continue testing this concept with more species to see if it can make a long-term difference.”
The full report is available at www.marinemanagement.org.uk/fisheries/management/documents/quotas/cqt_interim2012.pdf
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