Discards

Discarded fish on deck of North Sea trawler. © Greenpeace / Julian Germain

Discarded fish on deck of North Sea trawler. © Greenpeace / Julian Germain

Some forms of fishing are indiscriminate and highly wasteful, resulting in the waste of tens of millions of fish in European waters. Estimates from 2011, put the waste of unwanted fish and marine life in EU fisheries at 1.7 million tonnes each year! (1) Large numbers of juvenile fish are killed before they have had time to breed, and low-value or unwanted fish (many of which are also vulnerable species) are thrown back dead or dying.

In 2013, the EU introduced its discard ban (also known as the Landing Obligation) as part of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, in order to stop this unnecessary waste of fish and to stimulate the use of more selective fishing methods. This new law requires almost all catches (for fish with catch limits or those in the Mediterranean with minimum reference sizes) to be fully documented and counted against catch limits , then brought ashore. The ban is being phased in between 2015 and January 2019.

However, reports suggest discarding is still continuing, fishing selectivity is not being significantly improved, catch data used for science and management is becoming less reliable, and governments are refusing to increase at-sea monitoring to ensure the new laws are respected. [2]

The promise to end overfishing is not only slipping through our fingers; the situation may be worsening.

  1. COM (2011). Commission Staff Working Paper Impact Assessment accompanying the document Commission proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Common Fisheries Policy [repealing Regulation (EC) N° 2371/2002]. 
  2. Our Fish (2018), Thrown Away: How illegal discarding in the Baltic Sea is failing EU fisheries and citizens.