Discard issue key to any review of Common Fisheries Policy
A number of countries have instituted fisheries policies and management regimes based on the principle of “no discards”. A “no-discard” policy implies a paradigm shift in approaches to fisheries management. It moves the focus of management measures from landings to catches and from fish production to fish mortality.
By regarding “no discards” as the norm, any discarding then requires adequate justification. It should be emphasised that discarding occurs in all international fleets operating in the waters around Ireland and that mitigation measures must be applied to all these fleets if we are to implement a successful discard reduction policy.
The Marine Institute and Board Iascaigh Mhara published a “discard atlas” in 2011 which provides an overview of Irish discarding practices around Ireland by species and which identifies the scale of discarding associated with the main bottom trawl fisheries.
Ireland was the first country to produce such an atlas. Its purpose is to present the scientific observations on discarding by the Irish bottom trawl fleet in a non-technical way in order to inform debate on how to significantly reduce discards in Ireland’s fisheries and is a key step on the road to sustainable fisheries.
It is important to note that Irish fleets exploit stocks that are also fished by other nations. In many cases, Ireland may only have a minority share of the total allowable catch and account for only part of the overall discards.
As a result, to understand the significance of discarding associated with Irish vessels, it is important to consider the contribution that they make relative to the international catch.
It is therefore critical to develop a European discard atlas if we are to quantify the key international fisheries and tackle the northeast Atlantic discard issue.
Dr PAUL CONNOLLYis head of the fisheries ecosystems advisory services at the Marine Institute. This article draws on material from the institute’s Discard Atlas (available to download at marine.ie)