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New Short Film Highlights Fishermen-Led Innovation to Meet Discard Ban

Sustainability Economics Politics +2 more

EU - During a gathering at the European Parliament, Environmental Defense Fund released a new short-film, Gearing Up for Change: A Collaborative Approach for a Responsive Fishery, featuring David Stevens, skipper of the Crystal Sea II (a family-owned vessel that he runs with his brother Alec). The film highlights the innovative ways Stevens and other fishermen are working to meet the European Unions landing obligation as set forth in the Common Fisheries Policy.

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The round table event of policy makers, industry and NGOs was hosted by the European Parliament Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development in collaboration with Environmental Defense Fund and chaired by Alain Cadec MEP.

The discussion focused on the challenges facing the industry in implementing the landing obligation, with specific attention paid to the economic costs of greater selectivity, and the need for greater technical adaptability and flexibility to meet the new requirements, combined with more flexibility and security needed in quota allocation.

Many participants highlighted the need for more time and space to enable innovation and liberate the inherent knowledge of the industry to complement the process.

Stevens commented: “The time lag in the scientific process is a huge challenge in fisheries management – especially for erratic species like haddock. We need to be coming forward with the data so [policy makers] can see where the changes need to be made.”

During the discussion, Stevens explained why he believes greater collaboration will be vital to unlock the gear adaptability, real-time data, and flexible quota management needed to underpin a successful ‘discard ban.’

Developing innovative fishing techniques as part of a ‘Catch Quota Trial’ over the last three years, he has significantly reduced his discards through fully documenting his catch and trialling gear modifications sparked by what he witnessed first-hand on the water. Stevens was keen to highlight that this is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and that significant social and economic challenges remain.

“There are fishermen across Europe who are rising to the challenge the landing obligation raises. They believe, as do we, that a mix of gear technology and quota management solutions can together provide the selectivity, security and adaptability fishermen need in their business to ensure sustainable and prosperous fisheries,” commented Melanie Siggs, Senior Director, Environmental Defense Fund, EU Oceans programme.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to help showcase those fishermen when we can, and ensure policy makers have the benefit of their knowledge”.

The film – shown publicly for the first time at the event – is an in-depth exploration, from Stevens’ perspective, on his participation in the UK Catch Quota Trial (CQT). Run by fisheries agency the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), and supported by the scientific agency the Centre for Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the CQT provided quota incentives for fishermen willing to operate under the conditions of the landing obligation, and fully document their catches.

Under the CQT, he was able to reduce the discards in his fishery to less than 2 per cent, and reduced the catch of juvenile haddock – his primary ‘choke species’ – by nearly 90 per cent.

As a part of the trial, Stevens used information from cameras on board to adapt his gear to changing conditions in his Celtic Sea fishing grounds – and record the success of different modifications tested.

Acknowledging that not everyone is in favour of cameras, he notes that they can create significant trust in the system with just one or two vessels operating with cameras within the fleet.

“We need to see the cameras as more than just an enforcement tool, we need to see them as a scientific tool. I think we’ve only scratched the surface of what they can achieve,” Stevens said, to the group of MEPs, civil servants, industry and NGO representatives present.

“The work the Crystal Sea II has undertaken not only shows what the industry can achieve with incentive-led initiatives but also clearly demonstrates the challenges the landing obligation poses for the fishing industry.”

The flexibility provided by quota incentives under the CQT gave the security the Crystal Sea II needed in order to participate in the trial. In his discussion of the future of fishing, David reflected on the value greater security and longer-term quota management could add to his business: “What the industry needs is greater security about their quota, so we can build longer-term plans combined with the ability to adapt gear according to the conditions, so as to maximize selectivity. Technical regulations – even those which have been a success in my fishery – won’t work as a ‘one-size fits all.’”