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July - August 2017

  • A meeting of the SDSG took place on 28 June and focussed its discussions on Scotland’s future discards policy once the UK leaves the EU. At the meeting it was agreed that a sub-group would be established – the Future Catching Policy Development (FCPD) Group – which would consider discards as part of a wider look at our whole catching policy. 
  • The first meeting of the FCPD group took place on 17 August. At that meeting we considered the different fleet segments, the nature of their fishing activities, the challenges they face and the reasons why discarding takes place. This work should enable us to take a more tailored approach in future, rather than establishing policies which are one-size-fits-all.
  • A meeting of the NWW technical group took place on 12 July. This was the final meeting of the group before the summer break, with meetings starting up again in September.
  • Marine Scotland has been undertaking a significant level of statistical analysis on the discards data produced by Marine Scotland Science. This will help feed into the FCPD work and also help us when considering solutions to choke species.
  • The Joint Recommendations for the NS and NWW regional groups were sent to the Commission on 31 May. STECF has assessed the recommendations and, following some additional questions, we anticipate that the final Delegated Acts from the Commission will closely follow the joint Recommendations, particularly for fisheries of interest and importance to Scotland.
  • Marine Scotland plans to issue a call for bids for a new REM trial onboard a ‘new class’ of pelagic vessel to take place from January 2018. We expect the call to be issued during September and will place details on our website.
  • The second meeting of the FCPD Group will take place on 25 September. This meeting will focus on carrying out an options appraisal for Scotland’s future catching policy. 
  • There will be a meeting of interested Member States involved in the NWW on 19 & 20 September to consider a ‘choke mitigation tool’ developed by the NWWAC and applying it in the West of Scotland, Irish Sea and Channel. Marine Scotland will be represented, as will the Scottish fishing industry. We expect the meeting to identify key choke risks (not least Cod and Whiting) and to hopefully consider solutions.
  • A meeting of the North Sea technical group will take place on 12 September and the focus will be on choke species. Marine Scotland will be highlighting the challenges posed by Hake in particular, when the full landing obligation applies from 2019.  
  • Outside the regional groups Marine Scotland continues to consider ways in which we can mitigate the risk of choke species in 2019. 

May - June 2017

  • The North Sea and North Western Waters (NWW) Regional Groups agreed their Joint Recommendations (JRs) for 2018 and these were submitted to the Commission on 31 May. The JRs covered phasing in of the demersal discard ban, deep sea species, and a replacement for the current pelagic discard plans (which come to the end of their initial 3-year periods on 31 December).

  • There was a bespoke meeting of the NWW technical group on 20 June to discuss choke mitigation in the Celtic Sea, using a ‘choke mitigation tool’ developed by the NWWAC.

  • There was a meeting of the North Sea technical group on 12-13 June. Marine Scotland officials attended and presented on the significant choke risk posed by Hake and potential solutions including zonal redistribution of quota.

  • The Commission visited the UK on 13-15 June to undertake an audit on the monitoring and control of the landing obligation. It is undertaking these audits in all Member States over the course of this year and next. A report will be produced in due course.

  • There will be an NWW technical group meeting on 12 July to follow up on the outputs from the bespoke Celtic Sea choke meeting on 20 June.

  • The work of the Regional Groups will wind down over the summer and start up again in the autumn to consider plans for the implementation of the landing obligation in 2019. This will need to include serious consideration of handling for Category 3 choke risks. The UK continues to push other Member States to consider the difficult issues facing the landing obligation and we have stressed the concern we have about the introduction of species such as west of Scotland Cod.

  • Marine Scotland is progressing internal work on the management of Category 3 choke risks. In the first instance we are concentrating on options/potential solutions for west of Scotland Cod. We are also considering options for Hake, Ling and west of Scotland Whiting. We will be in touch with stakeholders to broaden our thinking over the summer.

  • An SDSG meeting took place on 28 June and focussed on Scotland's future discards policy once the UK leaves the EU. It was agreed that we would consider future policies as part of wider considerations of a future fisheries management structure and that we would form an SDSG sub-group to develop options for a ‘future catching policy’. We will provide further details about this in due course.

  • On 27 June the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity answered a Parliamentary Question on the use of REM to control the landing obligation. You can find the question and answer here.

Update on GITAG:

  • In January 2017 GITAG called for industry applications to participate in the second phase of projects aimed at developing and trialling innovative components and gear types aimed at increasing selectivity and reducing discards.

  • Four projects were successfully completed in the first phase, the results of which offer scope for further development into practical gear solutions for discard reduction. Phase two sees industry and gear technologists coming together to develop and assess further trials with the purpose of assisting skippers to maximise the potential of their ideas and meeting their responsibilities under the discard ban. So far seven new projects are being developed under this second phase.

  • The Amity II project continues to make good progress with the double cod-end and gear technologists are working with Jimmy Buchan to optimise the cod-end size with square mesh panels integrated into the new gear set.

April 2017

  • Regional group meetings of Member States continued throughout the month, with efforts concentrating on developing phasing proposals for 2018. The UK position is to support the existing phasing pipeline for the North Sea (which was agreed during 2015). In the North Western Waters we have proposed adjusting thresholds where possible and appropriate, and have suggested some additional species for inclusion in Area VI.
  • Work has continued within Marine Scotland on possible solutions to Category 3 choke species
  • The European Parliament held a public meeting on the landing obligation on 24 April. You can listen to the debate here.
  • The NWW High Level Groups (HLG) met on 10 May to discuss the Joint Recommendation on phasing for 2018.  
  • The NS HLG will be meeting on 24 May. 
  • We expect both Joint Recommendations to be signed-off by the Regional Groups by the end of May at the latest, and then be forwarded onto the Commission. The Commission will then turn the Joint Recommendations into Delegated Acts. Detailed guidance on the changes being introduced for 2018 will be provided to stakeholders in due course.
  • Work has also been completed in both regional groups to draft a replacement Joint Recommendation for the existing pelagic discard ban, which is due to expire at the end of 2017. We anticipate that the replacement Joint Recommendation will be very similar to the existing Joint Recommendation.  
  • Work on category 3 choke species has progressed within the NWW group, with various case studies being produced on how ideas such as an 'Others' quota might work. We will be encouraging the group to draw conclusions to this work over the summer. At the last technical group meeting the NWW Advisory Council presented a choke mitigation tool that it has developed and which it believes may help break down issues species-by-species. The regional group will be conducting further work with this tool over the coming months. The NWWAC is also planning on holding a choke species conference in September.
  • The North Sea group has still not had any tangible discussions on choke species and we will be encouraging it to focus on this work now that the Joint Recommendation process is coming to an end. 
  • The next SDSG will take place on 28 June in Edinburgh, and will focus on Scotland’s future discards policy once the UK leaves the EU. Further details about the meeting will be provided in due course.

February 2017

  • Technical Group and High Level Group meetings for both the North Sea and North Western Waters (NWW) took place during February. All meetings covered development of discard plans for 2018 and work to tackle choke species. Member States also discussed the current pelagic discard plan which comes to an end on 31 December 2017, and the need to replace this with a further discard plan prior to multi-annual plans being developed. There was further discussion on the recommendations from the Regional Control Expert Groups for effective control and enforcement of the landing obligation.
  • The SDSG met on 14 February. The group discussed phasing options and possible exemptions for 2018 (further feedback has been sought on this from SDSG members prior to final proposals being developed). The group was also updated on work within the regional groups to develop solutions to choke species. The group discussed the development of options for a discard ban after the UK leaves the CFP – a meeting on this will take place in June.
  • Invitations to participate in the 2017 Saithe & Monkfish FDF scheme requested that bids be submitted by 28 February. There were a couple of late submissions (which is usual), with the final bid being received on 8 March, making a total of six vessels interested in taking cameras on board. The collective bids are significantly above the total scientific quota available to the scheme for these species, and Marine Scotland is currently discussing vessel allocations with the individual masters. We expect the scheme to be operational from 1 April with perhaps three or four vessels participating.
  • The NWW technical group met on 14 March. Topics for discussion included: developing a new pelagic discard plan; phasing and exemption proposals for 2018 and choke species. The meeting included presentations from Member States on the case studies they have been developing on various choke species solutions. The UK presented the idea of an 'Others' TAC or quota, interspecies flexibility and inter-area flexibility.
  • There will be an informal meeting of the EU Director Generals on 27 & 28 March, specifically on choke species. Part of the discussion will include consideration of what the European Commission should/could be doing to help alleviate choke risks. Graham Black, the new Director of Marine Scotland, will be attending.
  • Work is continuing to try and identify all the category 3 choke species for the Scottish fleet and to put in place the appropriate solutions. We will be seeking further input from the SDSG on this important issue.

  • Marine Scotland Science is currently analysing information from last year’s observer reports on estimated discard levels. These will be fed into the relevant ICES working groups as part of its annual stock assessment process.

  • The Spurdog by-catch avoidance project is to be phased in to the west of Scotland this year, ultimately allowing fishermen to make informed decisions about where to fish in order to reduce discards of dead Spurdog.

January 2017

  • The new delegated acts for the landing obligation came into force on 1 January 2017. Additional species have been added for both the NS and the NWW.

  • Papers for the next SDSG have been circulated and feedback is invited from stakeholders with regard to phasing options for the NWW in 2018; future levels of de minimis for Nephrops and Marine Scotland’s approach to choke species. Feedback from the SDSG will help to inform Marine Scotland’s position at the Regional Groups.

  • The UK submitted its report to the Commission on progress to date with the landing obligation. Marine Scotland contributed to this in order to represent Scottish interests.

  • NWW technical group meetings took place on 17 January and 7 February. A North Sea technical group meeting took place on 18 January. These meetings covered development of discard plans for 2018 and work to tackle choke species.

  • The next meeting of the SDSG will take place on 14 February in Edinburgh. Topics for discussion will include an update and discussion on the Regional Groups (joint recommendation process for 2018, phasing, exemptions and choke species) and the future of the landing obligation and fisheries management after exiting the CFP. If you are unable to attend the meeting and/or wish to discuss any of these topics in more detail then please contact Jane MacPherson or Paul McCarthy.

  • A meeting of the NWW technical group took place on 7 February. The meeting covered the phasing-in in 2018 (with Member States setting out their starting positions, although most are still in consultation with their stakeholders); progress with choke species case studies (which will be presented to the High Level Group in March) and development of a second discard plan for the Pelagic landing obligation, once the current one has ended.

  • High Level Group meetings will take place for both the NWW and NS on 21 February. We expect that discussion will focus on development of the joint recommendations for 2018. We also expect there to be discussion on the recommendations from the Regional Control Expert Groups.

  • Marine Scotland Science will be holding a DiscardLess Stakeholder Workshop at the Marine Laboratory on 1st March. If you would like more details or you wish to attend, please contact Debra Fincham-Smith.

  • Marine Scotland has invited applications from Scottish fishermen to join a Fully Documented Fisheries (FDF) scheme aimed at monitoring catches of Saithe and Monkfish. These species are not yet subject to the landing obligation and participating vessels will receive additional (limited) allocation of quota for both species in return for carrying CCTV monitoring equipment and fully documenting their catch. The purpose of this scheme is to reduce discards of potential choke species, reduce stock mortality, provide better scientific and catch data and to encourage fishermen to fish more selectively. The FDF scheme will focus on how Scottish mixed fisheries will be affected by the implementation of the landing obligation. Bids should be submitted by 28 February.

  • The Selectivity in Trawl Fishing Gears manual was published on 6 February – it is available to view here. This forms part of the EU-wide DiscardLess project which has been set up to provide the knowledge, tools, and methods required for the successful reduction of discards in European fisheries. The manual contains 64 factsheets which provide brief descriptions of many catch composition and selectivity trials that have taken place in the North Atlantic and adjacent seas.

  • Marine Scotland Science staff are continuing their work with colleagues at the University of East Anglia in developing automatic image recognition systems for discard monitoring using CCTV footage. An example of the results from our previous partnership can be seen here. The current collaboration focuses on developing software to identify fish to species level, and the aim is to progress this through participation in a new EU H2020 project. If successful, this project will also develop tools for bulk estimation and hand-held systems for small-scale applications. Preliminary results comparing the precision of length measurements taken from camera footage versus those obtained by observers look promising, and work is continuing to strengthen confidence in these results. Finally, the team at the Marine Laboratory is about to increase in number, having successfully recruited Anastasia Moutaftsi for a Buckland-Smith internship, and we are in the process of interviewing candidates for a Careerwise Women in Science fellowship, to work with us for several months over the summer.