3 Discards |
40. Discards are fish which are caught but which,
for a variety of reasons, are not landed (ie brought back to a
port) and are instead discarded back into the sea. The majority
of discards do not survive. Discarding is a waste of resources
and damages the marine environment.
41. The problem of discards has received increasing
attention both domestically and at the European level in recent
months. In January 2011 Channel 4 broadcast Hugh's Fish Fight,
a campaigning series presented by chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
which highlighted the wasteful practice. The series attracted
widespread press coverage and a Fish Fight Early Day Motion in
the House of Commons has obtained over 230 signatures.
42. Our witnesses were united in recognising
that a reduction in levels of discarding is a priority. Levels
of discards from the UK fleet have already reduced by 67% between
2002 and 2008, but
even with this reduction, an estimated 51,179 tonnes of fish were
discarded in 2009
(whilst 581,000 tonnes were landed).
It is clear that the industry and Government must work together
if a further reduction in the level of discards is to be achieved
43. The reasons for discarding can be broken
down as follows (figures from 2008):
- Weak/absent market:
An estimated 54% of English and Welsh discards (13,230 tonnes)
were discarded for reasons relating to weak/absent markets (i.e.
- Quota constraints:
fish are caught for which the vessel has no quota. This category
was estimated to account for 22% (5,390 tonnes).
- Below minimum landing size:
In order to protect fish stocks, juvenile fish may not be landed.
24% of discards (5,880 tonnes) were quota species below the legal
minimum landing size and were too small to land.
44. In the course of our inquiry we took evidence
on two Defra initiatives which were intended to tackle the issue
of discards: Fishing for the Markets and Project 50%.
Fishing for the Markets
45. The majority of discards in 2008 (54%) occurred
not because of any legal restriction on the landing of the fish,
but because there was no market for them. Defra has initiated
the 'Fishing for the Markets' project, which is intended to research
the reasons for the under-utilisation of less popular species
and to encourage their consumption. Both the NFFO and NUTFA were
supportive of Fishing for the Markets in principle.
46. Should Fishing for the Markets be successful
in improving the market for less popular species, it is possible
that this may go beyond finding a market for by-catch and potentially
lead to these species being specifically targeted. It is essential
that sufficient data on stocks of these species are obtained so
that changes in consumer behaviour do not lead to them being over-fished.
47. Defra must continue its
research to understand and exploit the market for less popular
fish with a view to creating a more diverse and sustainable market.
The issue of discards has received considerable public attention
in recent months; Defra must not waste the opportunity that this
presents and should work with the industry and other interested
parties to develop innovative approaches to market diversification.
48. Technical changes to fishing gear allow fishermen
to target the size and species of fish that they wish to catch
whilst minimising the amount of unwanted by-catch. Project 50%
is a Defra-funded initiative in which social scientists worked
with fishermen from the Devon beam trawler fleet to design gear
to reduce by-catch of juvenile fish.
The project succeeded in reducing discards by 50%.
49. Both of the fishermen's organisations that
we took evidence from were supportive of the collaborative approach
taken by Project 50%.
Defra officials noted that the reduction in discards was also
of direct benefit to the fishermen involved, resulting in a "better
quality and size of products [...] a better commercial return,
whilst sustaining their future".
50. Project 50% took place in 2009-10. During
oral evidence it emerged that no action had yet been taken to
build on its success and that Defra officials had not yet drawn
up any proposals for how the principles of the project could be
51. We recommend that Defra
take steps to apply the approach of Project 50% across English
fisheries to reduce discard levels and better protect juvenile
fish stocks. The Department must produce and implement an action
plan to address this as a priority.
52. A significant minority of discards occur
due to restrictions set at a European levelwhether through
quota restrictions on the amount of any species that can be landed,
or restrictions on the minimum landing size (intended to protect
juvenile fish). Achieving a reduction in discards has recently
emerged as a key issue for the next round of CFP reform. At
an informal meeting of European Fisheries ministers in Brussels
on 1 March Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime
Affairs and Fisheries, made clear that introduction of a discards
ban was under consideration and on the same date the UK joined
France, Germany and Denmark in signing a joint declaration on
discards which called for a gradual implementation of a ban through
a move away from the current system of limits on the amount of
fish which are landed, and towards limits on the number of fish
which are actually caught ('catch quotas').
53. We welcome the increased
focus on discards at the European level and we look forward to
examining the Commission's proposals for reform of the Common
Fisheries Policy in greater detail later in the year. We urge
Defra to continue to press for a reduction in discards as a key
element in the forthcoming negotiations. The Department must also
ensure that the interests of the inshore fleet are represented
in the next round of reforms.
22 EDM 1123, Session 2010-12 Back
Figures provided by Defra. Back
HC Deb, 27 January 2011, col 417W Back
UK Sea Fisheries Annual Statistics, http://marinemanagement.org.uk Back
HC Deb, 27 January 2011, col 417W Back
Q 73 Back
Further details of Project 50% can be found at www.cefas.defra.gov.uk/our-science.aspx Back
Q 75 Back
Q 122 Back
Q 121 Back
Joint Declaration on Discards under a Reformed Common Fisheries
Policy, 1 March 2011. Back