WWF and M&S promote solutions to discarding Published: 27 May, 2009
Discarding, the practice of dumping unwanted fish overboard, is one of
the most unethical and uneconomic problems facing our fishing industry.
But its also an issue that forward-thinking fishermen are striving to
resolve with the application of new types of selective fishing
gear. WWF is calling for the mandatory use of such selective gear in
European fisheries, and together with M&S has produced a new guide to
the many types of gear that can ultimately reduce discards and help
protect our commercial fish stocks.
Avoiding capture of unwanted fish is vital to allow dwindling fish
stocks to recover. In the seas around the UK, about one million tonnes
of fish, cephalopods (squid) and commercial shellfish are discarded each
year. In England and Wales, around 40 per cent of fish caught by
commercial vessels are subsequently thrown away.
Sally Bailey, marine programme manager at WWF-UK, says: ‘Tackling
discards has to be a priority for the whole of the supply chain,
including Governments and the fishing industry. WWF is working with
retailers like M&S to review solutions to the huge problem of discards
and in response to this issue we have produced a guide to actively
promote some of the selective gear we are advocating to the catching
sector. We advise all seafood retailers and processors to insist their
suppliers use the most appropriate selective gear in their
The WWF guide, a reference tool for those in the fish processing and
retail industry, describes some of the advances that have been made in
improving the selectivity of trawl nets. Bottom trawling can be one of
the most damaging fishing techniques for marine ecosystems. Currently
these trawls account for more than 80 per cent of the discards generated in the seas around the UK.
However it is possible to minimise the impacts of trawling on the
marine environment and low-cost solutions to reduce the amount of
discards in these fisheries. The WWF guide shows that the application of selective gear to the south-west beam trawl mixed fishery has led to a reduction in discards of 60 per cent. In the North Sea roundfish otter trawl fishery, there has been a 90 per cent reduction in cod catches using the Eliminator trawl, an innovative piece of fishing gear that won WWFs Smart Gear prize in 2007.
The economic benefits of using such gear is clear, when you consider
that the South West beam trawl fishery discarded 68 million fish between 2002 and 2005, and the North Sea roundfish trawl fishery up to 10.5 million fish in just two years.
M&S is one retailer that is moving away from sourcing fish caught by
beam trawls in favour of lighter, less destructive methods, such as
Danish seine nets.
Mike Barry, head of sustainable business, at M&S says:
‘Marks & Spencer has always sought out the most sustainable sources
of seafood for our customers. We hope the examples used in this report
will show that there are ways to reduce the problem of discarding, and
encourage others to make the most of the new net designs available.’