Luis Cocas, from the Undersecretariat for Fisheries and Aquaculture, was invited by Seafish, the UK authority on seafood, to speak at its recent Discard Action Group (DAG) meeting in London, a forum for the discussion of industry-wide problems relating to discards.
Chile is among the largest fish producing countries on the globe and Mr Cocas is responsible for implementing the new Chilean Discard Law, which was introduced in September 2012. Chile’s discards law prohibits discards of target species and bycatch by industrial and artisanal vessels and will be monitored via onboard cameras and self-assessments with fines issued to offenders.
However, the law´s sanctions do not come into effect until a Research Program, with a minimum two year timescale, has been completed in the various fisheries with both the industrial and artisanal fleets. This program aims to quantify the extent of discards and incidental catches of birds, turtles and mammals and to identify the causes of discards. The vessels owners have agreed to let scientific observers on board and to collaborate with them to monitor discards, and the skippers will also be required to fill out log books, regardless of the presence of an observer. The last represents a significant shift in the approach to the problem, making the fishing users participate actively in its solution.
The results will be used in the near future to create a Reduction Plan; a set of measures to mitigate discards and incidental catches; such as training courses, development of a code of conduct for good fishing practices, improvements to current administrative and technical processes, development of new markets for discarded species, and incentives for the development of innovative gear solutions.
Speaking at the event, Mr Cocas told the group: “It was important that we designed a research program that worked for the industry as well as the government, and through a series of workshops and meetings we socialised the law, liaised with fishermen and implemented their feedback into the program to achieve a better acceptance.
“The concept behind the “non-sanctions program” is to encourage industry to operate normally, favouring the collection of unbiased data. Before we start penalising vessel owners, it is only fair that we get a full understanding of what actually goes on out at sea so we can help the industry manage discards in a better way and reduce the impact of the ban.
“Participating in the DAG meeting was such an experience for me, since this forum is a great example of the kind of collaboration needed on such an important issue. I am keen to replicate a similar group in Chile to ensure we continue to monitor the challenges and successes of our own discard law, with the participation of all the fishing users.”
DAG was set up by Seafish in 2008 in light of the many initiatives being adopted by the fishing industry to reduce discards. The group meets three times a year and includes representatives from the catching sector, legislators, regulators, technologists, scientists, retailers, the food service sector and environmental organisations.
Group Chair Mike Park, who is a member of the Seafish Board, said:
“Over the past few months, the industry has been carrying out various trials and research studies to help us understand the real impact of the landing obligations but there is clearly still work to be done. We are delighted that Luis wanted to talk at our latest DAG meeting and it has been fascinating to hear about the work being done in Chile.”