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Policy Brief: Year 1 of the Landing Obligation, key issues from the Baltic and Pelagic fisheries

Fitzpatrick, Mike; Nielsen, Kåre Nolde

Ulrich, Clara; Borges, Lisa; Frangoudes, Katia

A Landing Obligation (LO), or a requirement to land all catches of certain fish species, was introduced as part of the EU’s new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in 2014. This DiscardLess policy brief focuses on initial experiences with LO implementation in the Baltic and Pelagic fisheries. It summarises the discard plans in these fisheries, presents stakeholder experiences from interviews, meeting attendance and literature review and highlights emerging issues relevant to all fisheries where the LO is being implemented.

Background and main elements of the landing obligation.
In March 2007, the Commission published a communication recognising the serious problem of discarding in European fisheries. A public consultation was held and discarding was subsequently highlighted in the Commission’s Green Paper on CFP reform. While a discard ban received significant support, industry recommended instead that discard reduction should be planned, on a fisheries basis, through creating incentives to enhance selectivity.

An incident involving a UK trawler in Norwegian waters in 2008 generated public pressure to end discarding, which increased from August 2010 in response to a UK celebrity chef’s public campaign known as “Hugh’s Fish Fight”. In 2011 the Commission included an obligation to land catches of regulated species in its CFP reform proposal. The adopted CFP included a LO, which applied for Baltic and pelagic fisheries from January 2015.

The main elements of the LO are as follows:

Scope: The LO applies to all catches of species which are subjected to Total Allowable Catch (TAC) limits or, in the Mediterranean, to a minimum landing size (MLS). Species that are not subject to TACs or MLS can still be discarded.

Minimum conservation reference size (MCRS): The LO requires that fish under the MCRS are landed but prohibits their use for direct human consumption. Catches of all fish, including fish below the MCRS must be recorded and counted against quotas. 

Exemptions: The LO does not apply to species and fisheries with demonstrably high survival rates for discarded fish. Also up to 5% of the total catch of species may be discarded in cases where selectivity increases are difficult to achieve or where handling of unwanted catches creates disproportionate costs (de minimis exemptions).

Discard plans: In the absence of multiannual plans groups of member states organised at a regional level develop discard plans in consultation with advisory councils. These plans are submitted as “joint recommendations”, which detail the species to be included in the LO, at which times and also any exemptions. Following review of the joint recommendations by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) the plans are adopted by the European Commission either in full or with amendments.

Quota flexibility The LO requires that fishermen have access to quotas to cover their catches or they have to cease fishing (see “choke species problem” below). Accordingly, there are rules that allow for conditional transfer of quota between years and between species.

This is POLICY BRIEF No1 of the DISCARDLess Project supporting Strategies for the gradual elimination of discards in European fisheries.

  • Zimmermann, C., Kraak, S., Krumme, U., Santos, J., Stotera, S., Nordheim, L. 2015: Research for PECH Committee -­‐ options of handling choke species in the view of the EU landing obligation – the Baltic plaice example. European Parliament.

  • Discard Atlas of North Western Waters Pelagic and Industrial Fisheries, Marine Institute, Galway, Ireland. March 2014.

  • Discard Atlas of North Sea fisheries. IMARES Wageningen UR. August 2014.

  • Gear trials in Skagerrak: A "new" pelagic grid. Joakim Hjelm, Andreas Sundelöf, Daniel Velentinsson, Hans Nilsson, Mikael Ovegård, Anders Wernbo. www.pelagic-­‐

  • Danish Experiences with the Landing obligation in the Baltic Sea and industrial fisheries elsewhere. DAG, London 25 November 2015.

  • PelAC recommendations on control of the Landing Obligation. 29th February 2016. www.pelagic-­‐ Recommendations on control of LO (NS)v2.pdf

  • Scheveningen Control Experts Group. Report on evaluation of different control methods for monitoring compliance with the pelagic Landing Obligation. August 2014. www.pelagic-­‐ request for advice on control (Scheveningen).pdf

  • Joint response from Oceana, Fisheries Secretariat, WWF, Coalition Clean Baltic and Finnish Society for Nature Conservation on BALTFISH draft discard plan. 28 February 2014.

  • BSAC Annual report on the implementation of the landing obligation, 1st February, 2016

  • BSAC, Joint Working Group (Demersal + Pelagic) on technical measures for the Baltic, 26th/27th January 2016

  • ICES Advice 31 May 2016, 8.3.5 Cod (Gadus morhua) in subdivisions 24–32 (eastern Baltic stock).

  • Borges, L. 2016: One year on: the landing obligation in Europe. ICES Newsletter, 26.02.2016.

  • Kraak, S., Von Dorrien, C., Krumme, U., Von Nordheim, L., Oeberst, R., Strehlow, H., Zimmerman, C. 2016: Research for PECH Committee. The discard ban and its impact on the maximum sustainable yield objective on fisheries – The Baltic Sea. European Parliament.

  • Kraak, S., Von Dorrien, C., Krumme, U., Von Nordheim, L., Oeberst, R., Strehlow, H., Zimmerman, C. 2016: Research for PECH Committee. The discard ban and its impact on the maximum sustainable yield objective on fisheries – The Baltic Sea. European Parliament.

  • STECF 2014a Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) – Landing Obligation in EU Fisheries -­‐ part II (STECF-­‐14-­‐01). 2014. EUR 26551 EN, JRC 88869, 67 pp.

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