Oceana urges the European Commission to take urgent measures to eliminate discards fisheries

Oceana asks the European Commission to study the establishment of policies that prohibit discards and reduce by-catches.

Press Release Date: August 29, 2013

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Discards constitute 8% of total weight of world captures or more than 7.3 million tonnes of fish thrown away at sea. More than 20% of fish is discarded in European waters.

On the occasion of a seminar organised by the European Commission on 27 and 28 May, in which experts will discuss their work to correctly estimate the magnitude of discards and improve the selectivity of fishing methods, Oceana reminds the Commission about its commitment to eradicate the discarding practices carried out by the European fleet and to reduce by-catches.

Oceana also encourages the Commission to face this process with determination. Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana Europe, conscious of the effort that the fishing sector and the authorities will to need make in order to adopt certain measures, affirms that “although it is overdue, this step is essential in order to establish sustainable fishing practices that will guarantee the future viability of the sector and the recovery of fishing grounds that are seriously deteriorating.”

Discard is defined by the FAO as “the portion of the catch that is thrown away at sea for one reason or another.” This practice is carried out worldwide and is most acute in trawling fisheries for demersal species where the percentage of discards can reach up to 90% of the total catch.

Both the General Assembly of the United Nations, through various resolutions, and the FAO, through the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, have emphasised the need to minimise this practice on a global scale.

There are a number of reasons why a vessel discards a percentage of its catch, but in the majority of the cases, it has to do with commercial strategies. Globally, more than 7.3 million tonnes of fish are thrown away at sea each year. This amount represents 8% of the world’s total catch.

Oceana decisively supports the option proposed by the Commission as a basis for future rules: a prohibition on discarding along with complementary measures. Amongst these measures, the international marine research and conservation organisation considers that the establishment of limits for by-catch is a priority, along with real time closure of fisheries and the development of an effective observer system. 

Effective implementation of these measures will require the development of a framework of transitory actions that will eventually lead to a routine system in which discarding will not take place.

Oceana also insists that the objectives, expressed as the maximum allowed by-catch limit (MABL), must include all the species caught, and not only commercial species. When the current knowledge of some stocks makes it impossible to establish these limits, the marine conservation organisation asks that the limit be based on the precautionary approach Moreover, Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for commercial species must be established including the MABL’s so that actual extraction for the fishery corresponds to the models established for correct management.

On numerous occasions, Oceana has reiterated that parts of the EU fleet are the most wasteful in the world. The announcement by the Commission of a policy focused on reducing by-catch and eliminating discards has significantly stimulated the search for solutions to high by-catch rates by research institutions, fishing associations and within some governments. Julie Cator, Policy Director for Oceana, affirms that “at a time when many fish stocks are in a critical condition, it is good to see activity being done to reduce by-catches. But we encourage the Commission to follow the path it has undertaken to include a discards ban as one of the key tools in achieving the lowest possible levels of by-catches.”