Plaudits for collaborative “Project 50%” at EU symposium –

Plaudits for collaborative “Project 50%” at EU symposium Published:  15 November, 2010

A high-profile project to cut the level of discarded fish by an English fishing fleet – led by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) on behalf of Defra – received plaudits from the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries at a recent symposium in Belgium.

The Commissioner, Mrs Maria Damanaki’s, remarks were made in a speech to the “Improve Fisheries and Science Partnerships as Policy Drivers” symposium, a Belgian EU presidency event held in Ostend on 9–10 November.

Mrs Damanaki said: “We already have many good examples of fishermen and scientists joining forces …. One such example is “Project 50%”. There the UK research institute Cefas, the fisheries department in London and fishermen working on 11 beam-trawlers have worked together to test a new fishing gear. This gear cuts the discard rate down by half in the flatfish fisheries.”

She went on to say that such initiatives show that there is the will for fishermen and scientists to work more closely together.

“These initiatives,” the Commissioner continued, “also bring direct benefits to the fishing communities. Take Project 50%, for instance. Here, the knowledge of fishermen and scientists together is helping to get fishermen the best possible value out of their products. It also gives fish a sustainable image among consumers. And last but not least Project 50% makes beam-trawl fishing less wasteful in terms of discards.”

Defra project lead, Dr Keri Torney said: “It’s great that we are getting recognition for the projects that the UK are running to reduce discard levels, and the work we are doing to communicate what we have learnt to other countries.”

In 2009–10 the innovative Project 50% partnership was established between scientists and Devon beam trawlermen. Their aim was to protect fish stocks by reducing the amount of juvenile fish discarded overboard by 50%. Results from voluntary sea trials showed an unprecedented overall reduction of 52% thanks to the development of modified fishing nets.

Representatives from Defra, Cefas, Marine Scotland, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, and the UK fishing industry gave presentations at the symposium.

Cefas has substantial experience running collaborative programmes with UK and European fishermen. The UK’s Fisheries Science Partnership and the European “GAP” programme are two such examples.