An assesment of the De Minimis Exemption in the CFP discarding regulation: for Scottish Fleets

This paper assesses the potential implementation of the de minimis exemption in Scotland.

CFP reform discarding regulation: the de minimis exemption An assessment of de minimis for Scottish fleets


The EC's new regulation on discarding has introduced new challenges to Member States. The de minimis exemption invites economic analysis to justify applicability. In summary, the de minimis exemption (Article 15 paragraph 3(c)) allows for discards of up to 5% (7% in years 1 and 2) of "total annual catches of all species" where either selectivity is deemed "very difficult" or there are "disproportionate costs of handling unwanted catches". It's widely agreed that the purpose of de minimis is to assist in balancing the catch.

Costs are disproportionate if they exceed the monetised benefits of achieving the policy condition or if they exceed benefits by a certain "safety margin". However, the fact that little to no revenue is achieved from the designated "unwanted" catch means that all costs associated with landing an "unwanted" species are essentially disproportionate.

This project assesses the potential implementation of the de minimis exemption in Scotland.


  1. Evaluation of the policy as well as similar policy
  2. Analysis of activity and performance of Scottish fleets in recent years
  3. Assessment of technical criteria to enable implementation of de minimis
  4. Economic modelling of potential scenarios to inform how the fleets could benefit from de minimis and the impact it could have on Scottish fleets


To assess the applicability of de minimis to a fleet, operational inclusion criteria have been identified, allowing for an assessment of whether a vessel/fleet is immediately applicable to apply for de minimis. This test is based on a percentage of catch made by a vessel, group of vessels or a fleet against total catch of the vessel(s)/fleet or against total quota. That is:

Is the catch of a stock ( i.e. stated species in stated area) by a fleet less than 10% of all catch in the Area ( e.g. IV or VI) by that fleet OR is the catch of the fleet less than 10% of total UK quota?

This provides for a cross check between fleets and stocks. With both tests complementing each other they indicate metiers where fleets take a low proportion of the stock and where the contribution of that stock to the fleet is low. At this level, catch composition and disproportionate costs are implicitly included.

The dimensions for evaluation of whether de minimis is applicable is suggested at the metier level, that is by fleet using a specific gear, fishing in a certain area for given species. The stocks applicable for de minimis exemption are naturally those where quota regulation applies as they are biologically assessed on an annual basis.

The question of how much of a given stock is allowable under de minimis depends on the status of the stock and how much unwanted catch is caught by vessels applying for this exemption. It is important for biologists and policy makers to understand the impact that discarding currently has and will have in the near future on stocks.

De minimis in combination with other exemptions could well keep Scottish fleets fishing and maintaining economic viability.


  • An economic evaluation of de minimis is an important step in European regulation. It should be used with technical criteria and non-monetary data to make the case for use of de minimis, e.g. with the inclusion criteria investigated.
  • Overall, the models indicate that de minimis can be applied operationally at the fleet level and could help to keep Scottish fleets fishing at close to current levels.
  • The allocation of de minimis to fleet then needs to be considered in the light of biological advice to establish the amount allowed.

For further information Please contact the Marine Analytical Unit at Marine Scotland.

Disclaimer This one page summary is based on a report prepared for Marine Scotland. Views expressed and conclusions drawn are those of the author and not Marine Scotland and in no way pre-empt future policy in this area.


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