UK leads the way on discard problem

On the 30th November last, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in the United Kingdom announced that they were satisfied that they could virtually eliminate all discards based on trials which commenced at the start of 2011.

The trials have expanded over those last two years increasing the number of participating fishermen as well as the species and vessels.

The aim of the trial is to concentrate on fishing in areas where there are less likely to be by products caught and in such a way by fishing more selectively, the fishermen are then entitled to land what they catch.

In addition, those vessels taking part were assigned additional quotas which amounted to approximately ¾ of what would typically have been discarded by the fishermen.

The following were the effective rates of recovery.

Fishery Average Discard Rate (%) Trial Discard Rate (%)
North Sea Cod 38 0.2
Area VIIE Sole 28 0.1
Area VIID & E Plaice 8 0.2
Area 7 Anger Fish 6 1.1
Area VII Megram 12 1.3

The MMO reported that seven vessels took part in the trials in the south west along with twelve in the North Sea. All fish which were caught had to be landed and counted against the quota.

Data from on board monitoring equipment, including CCTV cameras, were used to check that the conditions of the trial were adhered to. The report confirms that the discard levels have been based on a random 10% audit of CCTV footage and, in fact, the MMO instructed fishermen and skippers on how to ensure that they did not engage in discarding.

The data from CCTV footage and other information gathering systems was collected at the end of the fishing trips as well as there being mid-voyage data gathering by observer vessels.

The main emphasis of this particular trial for 2012 was to expand the number of vessels and the number of fisheries but it was also to try and improve the accuracy of the data gathering to ensure control mechanism are working.

The data systems in place consisted of hydrolic and drum rotation censors to monitor gear use to indicate fishing activity, video cameras to record fishing activity from multiple views, GPS receiver to track the vessels route and pinpoint fishing times and locations and all of this was fed into a control centre which monitors the censors, records the data and displays systems summary. It is an exciting development for the fishing industry where our system still criminalises the failure to through away good fish. Indeed, what is very interesting to note is that this is not merely an initiative by the United Kingdom but several regulations have to be amended to allow these trials to proceed and indeed, there also had to be an amendment to the tack to allow the additional quota to be granted to the participating of trial vessels. It would appear to make perfect sense that we should follow our neighbours lead.

Dermot Conway
contact Dermot at 0214901000 or <