Seafish response to the European Commission statement on discards –

Seafish response to the European Commission statement on discards Published:  30 March, 2007

SEAFISH has issued a statement welcoming the Commission’s statement on discards, published on 28 March.

This is an area that has been at the heart of much of our research programme for at least 20 years. We have been active in Europe, and more widely, with our work on more selective fishing gears. We have also undertaken extensive research for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and its replacement, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), on how best to monitor discarding. This has included investigations into how the fleet itself can play a part through self-sampling of discards.

Philip MacMullen, Seafish Head of Environmental Responsibility, commented: “Seafish is particularly pleased that the Commission is taking a measured approach to this subject. Their recognition that the nature of discard problems varies with the fishery concerned reveals a very welcome sense of pragmatism. Combining this with a realistic time scale and a willingness to pilot fishery-specific solutions leads us to be confident that solutions can be found.

“Seafish has looked at the relationships between management objectives, management tools and the range of resulting outcomes for at least 20 years. One clear conclusion we have drawn is that management that is entirely prescriptive is very unlikely to be effective. Imposition generally leads to resentment and poor compliance. So we have to devise systems that combine prescription with incentives and the Commission has also acknowledged the validity of this equation.

“Where the opportunity to continue fishing depends upon using the best available conservation technology in the most effective way, then fishermen’s extraordinary ingenuity can be harnessed for good. Shifting the focus of management towards output measures – the composition of the whole catch – whilst bearing down on discarding, means that fishermen will finally have a total incentive to minimise non-target catch.

According to Seafish, the principles described in the Commission’s statement are clearly aimed at linking opportunities to fish with the need to target effort more precisely and to reduce the wastage of resources through discarding. If this sort of framework can be developed, then Seafish is ideally placed to help fishermen through the provision of technical support. A scenario where fishermen request that help is exactly what we have proposed in our responses to many recent policy consultations over the last few years.

“We have a real feeling that our statement of principles on environmental issues can start to be delivered. Our close involvement with all sectors of the seafood industry means that we really can help the industry to become a part of the solution and we have already formed an industry group to achieve this.” is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.