Another aspect of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is that of the discard ban. Discarding refers to the practice of returning non-target species, and undersized target species to the sea due to:
- quota restrictions
- high grading (choosing to keep the most valuable fish)
- minimum landing sizes
- market conditions
Prior to 2015, fishermen were permitted to discard any non-target species caught, as well as individuals of target species deemed to not be commercially valuable (i.e. species below a desired size or weight).
The Discard Ban and the Common Fisheries Policy, 2014
This restriction on commercial fishing was added to the new CFP in 2014, and requires fishermen to land every individual fish caught as part of their total allowable catch. Also known as a landing obligation (www1), this regulation came into action from 1 January 2015 for pelagic fisheries (Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2438), and extended to certain demersal species from 1 January 2016 (Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 1393/2014 ).
Landing obligations are aimed to be in effect for all fisheries from 2019 with the phasing period (2015-2019) being designed to give fishermen time to adjust to the proposed provisions. For more information, see the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine: Land Obligations / Discard Ban.
The Impact of Discarding
Many discarded species have been shown to have high mortality post catch, therefore despite not being a direct target of the fishing industry these species have suffered population decline (Evans et al., 1994). Before the restriction came into play, up to one third of all catches were returned to the sea as discards in trawl fisheries alone (Alverson et al., 1994; Borges et al., 2005).
The Effects of the Discard Ban
Failure to adhere to this regulation, can result in substantial fines, as well as court appearances, and loss of fishing licences. This has created calls for an increase in quotas to prevent major income losses for fishery-dependent businesses (Cosgrove et al., 2015). It has yet to be seen what the true effect of this ban has been having on Irish fisheries, but pilot studies carried out have shown that the discard ban combined with use of target specific fishing gear can help reduce any potential economic loss brought about by this restriction (Cosgrove et al., 2015).
However, this regulation can be difficult to monitor, as it is impossible to know at port if landings are in fact what was caught, or if discarding has occurred further out to sea. It is for this reason that fisheries observers have been employed to monitor exactly what is being caught aboard Irish fishing vessels.