Blue Implosion – How EU Failure To Enforce Fish Discard Ban Could Drive Fisheries Management System To Collapse


Media briefing, 17 November 2020: EU fisheries management system likely to implode

Brussels, 24 November 2020:- A new paper, The Unintended Impact Of The European Discard Ban, has found that an increase in annual EU fishing quotas of up to 50% was applied to ‘support’ the implementation of the Landing Obligation (LO) – the rule to reduce fish waste – in EU waters in 2020, despite widespread failure to enforce the rule and the continued discarding of fish. The paper, published by Dr Lisa Borges in the ICES Journal of Marine Science, finds that this discrepancy is likely to lead to an enormous unmeasured increase in fishing pressure, and therefore lead to an implosion of the EU fisheries management system.

“The landing obligation has the potential to be the most significant push for more selective fisheries in Europe in the last 20 years. Usually, when a significant change in law is made that could have a radical effect on fishers’ behaviour it comes with positive and negative incentives. In Europe however, fishers were given extra quota to account for the extra non-commercial catch. But not only are they not landing that extra catch, they are not being monitored or controlled,” said Dr Lisa Borges.

“These significant increases in EU fishing limits, the exemptions to the rules and the lack of monitoring and enforcement are now pushing the EU fisheries management system towards a tipping point. All stakeholders need to acknowledge the impact the Landing Obligation is having on the TAC system and try to minimise it, otherwise we will see our fisheries management system implode,” concluded Dr Borges.

“Dr Borges’ paper confirms what many scientists and conservation groups have been saying for years – without proper counting of catches and enforcement of fishing rules, the result could be massive levels of overfishing and the collapse of fish populations, which in turn breaks down marine ecosystems. This undermines scientific data and the fisheries management system, and ultimately threatens the security of the fishing industry,” said Rebecca Hubbard, Our Fish Programme Director.

“It’s a disgrace that an industry can get away with such broadscale illegal behaviour, which can devastate a public resource and impact ecosystems, without any repercussions. Instead, EU governments are rewarding these antics with even more fishing quotas. With a number of EU fish populations on the verge of collapse, such as cod and herring, it’s now urgent that the Commission and fisheries ministers start acknowledging unreported, illegal catches by setting more conservative fishing limits and enforcing the rules at sea with remote electronic monitoring,” concluded Ms Hubbard.

Download Briefing Paper: EU fisheries management system likely to implode: the unintended impact of not enforcing the ban on fish discards

Watch video of media briefing and download presentation by Dr Borges, 17 November 2020:

Read the original scientific article The Unintended Impact Of The European Discard Ban, or request it directly from the author:

Note: The Unintended Impact Of The European Discard Ban ​was partly funded by Our Fish, and initially from the European Union Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 633680 (DiscardLess Project).



Dave Walsh, Our Fish Communications Advisor, +34 691 826 764,

About Dr Lisa Borges

Dr Borges has been working in fisheries for over 20 years, including for the research institutes of Portugal, Ireland and Netherlands, and for the European Commission, on fish stock assessments and discard analyses. She is now the Director of FishFix, a consulting company.

About Our Fish

Our Fish is working to end overfishing and restore a healthy ocean ecosystem. By collaborating with others, and deploying robust evidence, we are calling for an end to overfishing as a critical and significant action to address the biodiversity and climate crisis.