Collection of Data to Inform the Implementation of a Discards Ban: Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Vol 7 No 12

This report describes a trial of self-sampling by fishermen as a means of collecting information on discards. The project was funded by the Scottish Government under the Fishing Industry Science Alliance (FISA) and carried out in partnership with the Shet

2 Introduction

The European Union has agreed to implement a discard ban ('landing obligation') under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy [2] . This ban came into force for pelagic species at the beginning of 2015. For whitefish species the ban will be phased in from 2016 to 2019. The implementation of the discard ban represents a substantial challenge to the Scottish fishing industry, and especially to the mixed whitefish fishery.

A key problem is a lack of basic information needed to inform the development of a practical and proportionate discard management regime for the Scottish mixed whitefish fleet that can achieve the objectives of a discard ban without imposing unreasonable requirements on fishermen. In particular, detailed information on the quantities and nature of the fish being discarded and information on the potential practical implications of implementing a discards ban are lacking.

Knowledge of the nature and scale of these issues could help inform the development of a practical and proportionate discard management regime and would also help fishermen better understand the issues likely to arise from a discard ban and how these might best be managed.

The traditional means of collecting discards (and other fisheries) data has been through the deployment of scientific observers on-board commercial fishing vessels. Observers tend to be preferred because of the high level of control they provide over the sampling process and the resultant high level of scientific confidence in the resulting data.

However, deploying scientific observers on-board commercial fishing vessels is expensive and recruiting suitably qualified and experienced persons willing to undertake this work can be difficult. For these reasons the availability of observers is usually limited and there can be conflicting demands on their time from different sampling programmes.

Self-sampling - where fishermen themselves collect samples of their catches for analysis ashore - offers a potential alternative to the use of on-board observers for the collection of discards and other fisheries data from commercial fishing vessels. Self-sampling has been successfully used elsewhere, for example in Dutch fisheries (van Helmond et al., 2012; Kraan et al., 2013; Uhlmann et al., 2013).

The Dutch programme has used a reference fleet of 23 vessels, distributed across nine different métiers (gear, mesh-size combinations), to collect discard samples during their commercial fishing operations. The Dutch crews collected a sample of two boxes of discards (~80kg) from two catches during each trip. These samples were landed for on-shore analysis. The self-sampling has been backed up by observers who independently sampled discards during some of these vessels' fishing trips to provide a means of verifying the data collected through the self-sampling programme.

Given the fishing industry's desire to obtain more information on the nature and scale of discarding by fishing vessels in the waters around Shetland, and the difficulties associated with the use of observers (outlined above), the Dutch self-sampling model was adapted and trialled in the northern North Sea mixed whitefish fishery as a means of obtaining additional information on discards.

The objectives of the project were:

− to implement a discard self-sampling programme in this fishery (based on methods developed and used in the Netherlands) as a cost-effective means of increasing the quantity of discards data from Scottish whitefish fisheries.
− to use this programme to collect quantitative information on the amount and nature of fish currently being discarded in the mixed whitefish fishery around Shetland.
− to assess the practical implications of implementing a discard ban on fishing vessels in the mixed whitefish fishery.

It was agreed by the FISA Steering Committee that this project would work cooperatively alongside industry and other observer programmes to assist with verification of the data obtained through the self-sampling programme, and to collect other information relevant to an assessment of the implications of the discards ban. As a means of verifying the data collected through this self-sampling scheme, comparisons were made with available discards data collected through various other programmes.


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