Catch of unwanted fish (bycatch) and its discard at sea constitutes a substantial waste of natural resources and poses a serious problem to the long-term sustainability of EU fisheries policy. To address this, the European Parliament adopted a report by Søren Gade MEP (Venstre, Denmark) on 18 May. The report backs the objectives of the landing obligation as a tool to drive improvements in fishing and operational behaviour, incentivise the development and usage of more selective gears to minimise unwanted catch, and improve catch documentation for a better understanding and scientific assessment of fish stocks.
Gade, Renew Europe Rapporteur and Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Fisheries (PECH), said:
“I am very happy that the European Parliament has sent a strong signal to the European Commission ahead of its evaluation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The EU needs to support measures that increase selectivity, listen to European fishers and finally, a thorough assessment of the implications of the landing obligation. This report underlines this, along with other important points. Now it is up to the European Commission to include Parliament's recommendations – the Renew Europe Group will monitor this and looks forward to the work ahead.”
Outlined by the 2013 reform of the CFP, and fully applicable since 2019, the landing obligation continues to raise concerns within the fishing industry, particularly due to the lack of adequate infrastructure in ports, the increase in operating costs that this rule entails and the difficulties in obtaining greater selectivity in certain activities.
The Renew Europe Group is aware of these issues and, rather than further increasing controls, recommends offering fishers practical and sustainable solutions to end the practice of discarding unwanted catch at sea, which is detrimental to the preservation of fishery resources and to European and international objectives to combat overfishing. EU Member States have also been called upon to be more rigorous about this issue in the new report.
Further measures suggested in the report include: the development of a "discard atlas" to better develop regional plans for bycatch; improvements in ports and the development of a circular economy of alternative channels to use unwanted catch, such as fishmeal for animal feed or to serve as bait for trap fishing; the gradual introduction of the obligation for products imported from third countries, to comply with the same discard policy and eliminate unfair competition for the European fleet.
The report aims to feed into the work of the European Commission in its upcoming assessment of the functioning of the CFP scheduled by the end of 2022.