Onboard monitoring needed to prove North Sea Cod not illegally discarded


Onboard monitoring needed to prove North Sea Cod not illegally discarded

London, 7 July 2017 :-  Responding to reports that the UK’s North Sea cod fishery has achieved Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards, Our Fish campaign manager Rebecca Hubbard said:

“With North Sea cod set to hit UK supermarket shelves again, both retailers and the MSC must demonstrate to consumers that not only are these cod stocks sustainable, but that illegal discarding is not taking place in the fishery”.

According to a report published by Undercurrent News, the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group (SFSAG) “should be certified in accordance” with the MSC standard, based on an assessment by  ME Certification, the conformity assessment body, for its North Sea Cod fishery. (1)

“Given the historically high levels of discarding in the North Sea Cod fishery, fishing vessels should at least have onboard electronic monitoring to give assurance that no illegal and unreported discarding is taking place. Failure to implement such monitoring would not only undermine credibility in the fishery, it will undermine the progress made to revitalise the fishery itself”, added Hubbard. (2)

In order to avoid  the waste of thousands of tonnes of unwanted fish and marine resources each year, the reformed Common Fisheries Policy introduced the Landing Obligation in December 2013, making it illegal for fishermen to throw away certain species at sea, and requiring that all catches are counted against their quotas. It has been phased-in since 2015, and will be entirely implemented across European seas by 2019, with North Sea Cod coming under the Landing Obligation this year. However reports of weak implementation and poor enforcement suggest that there is a high level of illegal and unreported discarding, especially in bottom trawl fisheries. (3,4,5)

A report from the Scheveningen Control Experts Group highlighted the high risk of illegal discarding by the trawl sector in the North Sea and a recent scientific report found that bottom trawl fisheries like the UK North Sea Cod are at high risk of failing MSC certification or failing to continue to be certified in the case of poor implementation of the Landing Obligation through not meeting monitoring requirements. (6,7)

“While the gradual recovery of North Sea Cod provides evidence that fish stocks can recover, we could see stronger recoveries if fisheries ministers stopped setting fishing limits above scientific advice, and instead enforced the reformed Common Fisheries Policy rules they have already signed up to”, concluded Hubbard. “ICES estimates that over 18 million kilos of North Sea Cod could be discarded in 2018. Failure to stop this discarding will threaten the success of improving fisheries, like North Sea Cod, and introduce illegality into the seafood supply chain.” (2)



  1. The Assessment body, ME Certification, has recommended that the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group (SFSAG) (a group of Scottish and English fishing vessels) North Sea cod fishery is certified in accordance with the MSC standard. There is a 15-working-day period during which a previously involved stakeholder may lodge a notice of objection to this determination (COB 18 July 2017). https://www.undercurrentnews.com/2017/06/27/scottish-north-sea-cod-fishery-meets-msc-standard-says-certification-body/ & Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group (SFSAG) North Sea cod  https://fisheries.msc.org/en/fisheries/scottish-fisheries-sustainable-accreditation-group-sfsag-north-sea-cod/@@assessments
  2. ICES (2017), ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort.  Greater North Sea Ecoregion cod.27.47d20. Published 30 June 2017.
  3. European PArliament Public Hearing on the State of Play of the Implementation of the Landing Obligation and Allocation of Quotas by the Member States http://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/117542/Veronika%20Veits_DG%20Mare.pdf
  4. European Court of Auditors (2017) no 08, Special Report – EU fisheries controls: more efforts needed
  5. ICES (2017), ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort, Baltic Sea Ecoregion. Cod.27.25-32. Published 31 May 2017.
  6. Scheveningen control expert group, 2016, Report on Control and Monitoring of the demersal Landing Obligation: Risk assessment and risk treatment.
  7. Blyth-Skyrme, R. & L. Borges (2016). Assessing the implications of the Landing Obligation on MSC certified fisheries in Europe.A report for Funding Fish, August 2016.



Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, dave@our.fish +34 691826764

Rebecca Hubbard, Campaign Manager, rebecca@our.fish +34 657669425

About Our Fish

Our Fish works to ensure European member states implement the Common Fisheries Policy and achieve sustainable fish stocks in European waters.

Our Fish brings together organisations from across Europe to speak with a common voice: overfishing of our waters must be stopped, and solutions put in place that ensure Europe’s waters are fished sustainably. Our Fish demands that the Common Fisheries Policy be properly enforced, and Europe’s fisheries effectively governed.

Our Fish calls on all EU Member States to set annual fishing limits at sustainable limits based on scientific advice, and to ensure that their fishing fleets prove that they are fishing sustainably, through monitoring and full documentation of their catch.


Photo credit: Arco Images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo