More species must all be landed next year.

Proposals put to Commission for N Sea and Western Water.

More quota species and vessels will be subject to the landing obligation/discard ban in 2018 under proposals put to the Commission’s scientific committee on fisheries, reports Tim Oliver.

In the North Sea, all the main roundfish species apart from hake will be included, while in area VII there are various additions. There is also a lowering of the percentage of catches system used in Area VII that will pull more vessels into the landing obligation (LO).

The details are complex, however, and there are various exemptions and conditions, including for species such as plaice and Nephrops that have high survivability after being discarded.

The proposals for 2018 have been submitted to the Commission’s Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF) by the North Sea and North Western Waters international high-level groups of officials and scientists that draw up the plans, working closely with the respective regional stakeholder Advisory Councils.

It is expected that STECF will approve the proposals with few, if any, changes, as it has done in previous years.

2018 will be the last year of the phasing-in of the discard ban, as from 1 January, 2019 all species subject to TACs/quotas will have to included.

There remain deep concerns over many aspects of the discard ban, including the dangers of choke species closing fisheries early and the problems of storage and handling on board of fish that would have been discarded, and the costs of disposal ashore.

Scottish fisheries minister Fergus Ewing warned at the recent Skipper Expo in Aberdeen of the dangers of choke species, and Dutch fishermen last week presented a petition in Brussels against the discards ban.

It is now expected that work to find ways to prevent choke species from tying-up large sections of the fleet will intensify, with only 18 months to go before the full scheme kicks in for all quota species. Bass will also be subject to the ban as a species with catch restrictions.

NFFO chief executive Barrie Deas, who was closely involved in the formulation of the proposals through his work on the North Sea and Western Waters advisory councils, said that in the North Sea cod, haddock, whiting and saithe caught in targeted fisheries or as a by-catch are all now LO species. But hake is still excluded until 2019, because the abundance is still out of line with the TAC, which would create a choke problem.

“The advisory councils will be working intensively on addressing the choke species issue in the autumn,” he told Fishing News.

He said that in the North Sea the existing tool box of measures to prevent chokes ie – de minimis, high-survival exemptions, inter-species flexibility, quota swaps and transfers between member states – might be enough to deal with the primary target species. But with the secondary, by-catch species, chokes would become harder to manage.

He said the situation for individual vessels in North Western Waters was more ‘opaque’ because the LO tended to be based on threshold percentages applied on the basis of individual boats’ track records of catches of a given species.

North Sea

LO applies as follows:

All saithe, plaice, haddock, whiting, cod, northern prawn, sole and Nephrops caught in all trawls over 100mm mesh (except beam trawls) and trawls using 32-69mm mesh. Plaice is exempted for trawls with 70-99mm (TR2) meshes.

Beam trawls over 120mm mesh – All catches of plaice, Northern prawn, Nephrops, sole, cod, haddock, whiting and saithe.

Beam trawls 80-99mm mesh – as above except plaice.

All sole, Northern prawn, Nephrops, haddock, whiting, cod*, and saithe in all gill and trammel nets.

All hake, Northern prawn, Nephrops, sole, haddock, whiting, cod, plaice and saithe caught with hooks and lines.

All Nephrops, Northern prawn, sole, haddock, plaice, saithe, whiting and cod caught with pots/creels.

Plaice was exempted for 2018 for TR2 (80-99mm) fisheries, after the North Sea Advisory Council argued that scientific work on its survivability after being discarded is still underway. The AC argued that if plaice was included it would be counterproductive, because no fish would be given the chance to survive and mortality would increase.

*With the exemption of cod in the Kattegat.

Summary of 2018 proposals

North Western Waters (Areas VI and VII)

By-catches of sole, plaice and megrim are to be added to existing haddock by-catch as landing obligation (LO) species in the targeted Nephrops fishery west of Scotland (area VI).

Saithe will become a LO species in areas VI and VII, where the total landings per vessel of all species in 2015 and 2016 consist of more than 50% saithe.

The thresholds are to be lowered or eliminated in fisheries for the following targeted species:

● Hake caught with trawls and seines in VI, VII and Vb from 20% to 10%.
● Whiting in the directed fishery on gadoids (cod, haddock, whiting, saithe) in VIId and VIIb,c, e and VIIf-k from 20% to 10%.
● Nephrops from 20% to 5% in VI and Vb and from 20% to 10% in VII.
● No threshold for sole caught by trawls in VIId and for beam trawls in VIId,e and VIIb,c and VIIf-k.

All other thresholds that determine a targeted species in a fishery are maintained for 2018.

The landing obligation applies as follows:

■ VI and Vb
Cod, haddock, whiting, saithe in all trawl fisheries where catches of all these species combined in 2015 and 2016 were 5% or more, plus by-catches of sole, plaice and megrim.

Nephrops in all trawl and creel fisheries where catches in 2015 and 2016 were 5% or more of the total catch, plus by-catches of haddock, sole, plaice and megrim.

Saithe in trawl fisheries where catches in 2015 and 2016 were 50% of the total.

■ VI and VII

Hake: All trawl fisheries where catches of hake in 2015 and 2016 were 10% or more of the total catch and all hake catches with gill nets and long lines.


Nephrops when catches using all gears in 2015 and 2016 were 10% or more of the total catch.

Saithe when saithe was 50% of the catch with trawls of 100mm or more mesh.

■ VIIa

Haddock, where combined landings of all gadoids (cod, haddock, whiting, saithe) were over 10% of the total catch in 2015-2016 in all trawl and seine net fisheries.

■ VIId

Sole in all beam trawl fisheries, trawl fisheries with meshes less than 100mm and all gill and trammel nets.

Whiting in all trawl and seine fisheries where all landings in 2015-2016 consisted of more than 10% of cod, haddock, whiting and saithe combined.

■ VIIe

Sole in all beam trawls and all gill/trammel nets.

■ VIId, e

Pollack in trammel and gill nets.

■ VIIb, c and f-k

Sole in all beam trawls and all gill/trammel nets.

■ VIIb, c, e and f-k

Whiting in all trawl and seine fisheries where combined catches of cod, haddock, saithe and whiting were more than 10% of total landings in 2015 and 2016.

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