Trials show fish discards fall to almost nothing
Fishermen taking parts in trials have almost eliminated discards - the practice of throwing unwanted but edible fish back dead into the sea - according to a recent report from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
The trials use remote monitoring equipment and CCTV to track the fish discarded from each boat. In total the cameras recorded 500 tonnes of fish being landed; analysing a sample of these catches showed that overall, just 0.3 per cent of fish were thrown back.
Discards of fish like sole, cod, plaice, megrim and anglerfish fell dramatically over 2012 in trials with fishermen in the North Sea and western English Channel. The results, published in the MMO's interim report on its Catch Quota Trials, suggest it's possible to cut bycatch almost to nothing if the right monitoring regime is put in place.
At present it's estimated that fishermen throw back more than a million tonnes of healthy fish into the sea every year. There are EU plans to ban the practice for a few species in 2014, but for many fish like cod and plaice that are under serious pressure from overfishing a ban may take much longer to come into effect.
The results for most individual species were encouraging. Only 0.2 per cent of North Sea cod that were caught, for example, ended up being discarded. Undersized or damaged fish that might once have been discarded were instead landed and put to uses other than feeding humans, such as being turned into animal food; these amounted to around 1 per cent of all fish landed.
There's a long way to go from this small, voluntary set of trials to reducing discards across the whole industry, but the results suggest it's at least possible to work with fishermen to cut discards almost completely, and to put monitoring systems into place that make sure they comply.
Posted on 7 December 2012
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