Discussion and conclusions
The de minimis exemption is the first piece of EU fisheries legislation that specifically involves economic tools and approaches. Given its newness, this is a challenge for decision makers throughout Europe. It appears that the first response is to argue away the economic component and not address it thoroughly but to use non-monetary data to make the case. There are indeed non-monetary elements that should be used to make the complete business case for using de minimis, but the economic dimension should not be ignored.
It is likely that the implementation of de minimis in 2015/16 for Pelagic and Demersal fleets will formalise the implementation of these concepts and ideas leading to workable approaches rather than methodologies. Economic approaches should make a key contribution, however how the discarding exemptions, particularly de minimis, are implemented will determine the achievement levels attained with the ambitious objectives of the landing obligation.
The de minimis exemption is widely thought of as a "balancing" tool to keep vessel fishing under the constraints of the discarding regulation ( e.g. STECF 2014). It should be noted that current quota allocation is not necessarily a fair indication of future quota allocation and in this transition, other tools will be available to policy makers to ensure the regulation is adhered to and the fleets remain economically viable, e.g. quota uplift and quota transfer. The biggest challenge is for multi-species fisheries where quota allocations have not necessarily in the past reflected catch composition. This will likely converge more closely over time, and will help drive changing behaviour in the industry.
As with all policy of this kind it is a political decision that will guide achievement but it should be recognized that defining clear objective criteria will ensure a transparent and impartial decision making process.
As disproportionate costs are not defined in the de minimis exemption it is up to Member States to define the concept and devise ways of making it operational. It should also be noted that it is not a common term in environmental economics.
This study has attempted to bring together the arguments for a "balanced" application of de minimis and not one that ignores a key element of disproportionate costs. A main operational inclusion test has been investigated using a percentage of catch made by a fleet against total catch of the fleet or against total quota with a percentage of 10% applied. It is hoped that this highlights the usefulness of such approaches and reduces reservations towards the use of economics in this area.
Related tests of assessing if quota is available to land a species from an area and ensuring that a stock remains within safe biological limits are tests that should be applied through the management plan as time of allocation stage of de minimis.
It is worth noting that the allocation of de minimis year on year will improve as data available and catch assessment improves with greater transparency of recording all catch.