Published May 1, 2018 | Version v1
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Conflicts and trade-offs in implementing the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) discard policy

  • 1. Université de Bretagne Occidentale
  • 2. University of Tromsø, The Arctic University of Norway
  • 3. Norwegian College of Fishery Science, University of Tromsø, The Arctic University of Norway


  • 1. DTU


The introduction of the Landing Obligation (LO) is one of the most significant reform elements in the 2013 Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In order to assess how the LO performs as a policy instrument, it is essential to understand the background, objectives and motivation that led to the policy being adopted. With these objectives in mind, a desk-study was first carried out to review relevant policy statements, regulatory documents and academic literature. Secondly, since the EU discard policy was driven by NGOs campaigns and public support, a subsequent analysis was performed based on interviews of key environmental NGOs on their perception of the LO, its objectives, goals and state of its implementation (from legislation to control and enforcement). This study of the views of environmental NGOs complements the perspectives of other stakeholders as captured in workpackage 4 (i.e. the “fishermen’ story”, the “scientists’ story” and the “managers’ story”), as well as work realised in workpackage 2 to monitor the changes of stakeholder perceptions in relation to the LO during its progressive application to European fisheries.

Possible conflicts and trade-offs in the introduction of the LO were then assessed based on two different approaches: a policy study and on an ecosystem service perspective. The objective of the policy analysis was to enumerate and discuss the interlinkages between the different management measures taken to date to deal with the LO, in order to identifying its strengths and weaknesses and, at the same time, evaluate potential conflicts. Finally, the ecosystem service approach was used conceptually to map the services that may be affected by the discard policy and again to identify potential objective conflicts and trade-offs between the landing obligation and other policies, with a special focus on the CFP and the MSFD.

The landing obligation was motivated by concerns of stock sustainability, a desire to avoid wasteful practices, and a need to improve the quality of fisheries data for stock assessment purposes. The LO has a clear objective to reduce unwanted catch by changing fishing practices, but it is also an instrument to achieve the overall objectives of the CFP of stocks and fisheries sustainability. The interviews show that NGOs are frustrated with slow and inflexible governance process regarding the validation of technical innovations and selective gears, and the reluctance of the sector to change. NGO representatives also expressed concern that control and monitoring regimes for the LO are insufficient. However, NGOs have high expectations from the results from the DiscardLess project and many are already working collaborative with the fishing industry to find solutions to the envisage issues with the practical implementation of the LO.

The policy study shows that implementation of the LO to date can be summarised by a slow uptake of some exemptions already provisioned in Art. 15, in association with additional policy changes not originally foreseen in the CFP. However, fishing practices have not yet changed and there has been no significant reduction of unwanted catch, as these policy measures in combination allowed for the fishing industry to continue operating as before.

Finally, regarding ecosystem services approach, considering fisheries in terms of the services that can be affected by the management decisions governing the fisheries SECAS (socio-ecological complex adaptive systems) could be a useful approach that can potentially generate innovative ways to approach fisheries governance issues. This understanding can enrich the discussions around the necessity to alter or even discontinue the human activity that affects or is affected by the services, facilitating comparisons of management alternatives.

This document constitutes deliverable 7.3 of work package 7 of the DiscardLess Project, and at the same time describes progress with the development of task 7.1, i.e. the EU discard policy: background and objectives and assessment of potential conflicts.


Conflicts and trade-offs in implementing the CFP discard policy DiscardLess_Deliverable D7-3 March 2018.pdf

Additional details


DiscardLess – DiscardLess – Strategies for the gradual elimination of discards in European fisheries 633680
European Commission