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Fishermen Demonstrate Almost Zero Discards in Latest MMO Trial

Cod Sustainability +3 more

UK - Discards have now been virtually eliminated in some species by fishermen taking part in current trials, according to the latest catch quota report from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

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The report shows discards of important stocks such as sole, cod, plaice, megrim and anglerfish have been drastically reduced in the trials carried out by the MMO through 2012 with North Sea and West Channel fishermen.

This year's trials have increased both the number of vessels and the number of species involved since beginning in 2011.

The MMO is operating the trials on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as part of the UK’s initiative to tackle the problem of discarding fish – where fish are thrown away at sea if they are too small or there is no quota left for a particular species.

The MMO's report details how the practice could be an alternative method of managing fisheries following the landmark reform of the Common Fisheries Policy announced by Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, which will ensure a ban on discards starting from January 2015.

The trials encourage fishermen to fish more selectively and land all of what they catch. Participating vessels were provided with additional quota that amounted to three quarters of the amount typically discarded in these fisheries.

Fishery Average discard rate for UK vessels in 2011 (%) Trial discard rate (%)

North Sea cod trawl fishery 18.5 0.1
Area VIIe sole beam trawl fishery 5.9 0.1
Area VIId and e plaice beam trawl fishery 4.9 0.6
Area VII anglerfish beam trawl fishery 11.4 0.7
North Sea plaice fishery 8.2 0.0
Western Hake beam trawl fishery 18.2 1.7
Area VII megrim beam trawl fishery 10.6 0.6

Seven vessels took part in the trials in the South West along with twelve in the North Sea. The boats were not permitted to discard any of the species in the trials, including those below the minimum size. They had to land all of the fish of these species that they caught so they all counted against their quota. Data from onboard monitoring equipment, including CCTV cameras, was used to check the conditions of the trial were adhered to.

Catches of undersized fish in the trial were also low, suggesting that boats are fishing more selectively.

Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said: “Last week the UK secured a historic deal to reform the broken Common Fisheries Policy, including a firm commitment to ban the wasteful practice of discarding perfectly good fish.

“These successful trials show that we are leading the way to eliminate discards.

“This evidence proves it is possible to create sustainable fisheries, which are good for both the environment and fishermen.”

James Cross, Chief Executive of the MMO, added: "These results show that there is a viable alternative to discards, ensuring a sustainable future for both our fish stocks and our fishing fleet. We are delighted that fishermen have been working so closely with the MMO to develop innovative solutions that can make a lasting difference.”

Arnold Locker, Chairman of Lockers Trawlers Ltd, has three vessels taking part in the scheme in the North Sea and also hopes to sign up a further new vessel when it joins his Yorkshire-based fleet later in the summer.

He said: “By taking part in the scheme I feel we are helping to improve public opinion of fishing. Sustainability is really important to us, we don’t want discards. We want future generations to follow us into the industry and it’s vital we help to protect fish stocks so they can do so.

“The trial proves that we are able to fish very selectively and I hope its successful approach of involving fishermen will continue.”

For more information, read the Catch Quota Trial 2012: Final Report