EU LANDING OBLIGATION STUDY OF IMPLEMENTATION AND IMPACT ON DISCARDS
EU landing obligation study of implementation and impact on discards. A new EU study provides a first overview of the implementation of the landing obligation (LO). The study also looks at the impact of LO on discard rates.
Overall, it is concluded that control and enforcement of the landing obligation remain challenging, that Member States have not adopted the necessary control measures and that significant undocumented discarding of catches occur.
A key aspect of the study concerns the effectiveness and efficiency of traditional vs modern control tools to monitor the landing obligation. The study concludes that remote electronic monitoring (REM) tools are the most effective and cost-efficient means (although some stakeholders raised issues such as privacy and costs). REM has been trialled by various Member States, but not been rolled out on a large scale. In its proposal for a revised fisheries control system (COM/2018/368 final), currently negotiated with Council and Parliament, the Commission supports the use of such modern control tools. On the other hand, the study points to important shortcomings of traditional control tools (at-sea inspections and dockside/auction inspections of the landings/logbooks), as they only provide a snapshot of compliance at the time of monitoring.
Secondly, the study concludes that the discard rates do not yet show clear trends or patterns as a result of the landing obligation. It was considered that there is a lack of evidence of changes in discarding practice, and that discarding is still taking place. Stakeholders contributing to the study identified a number of possible explanations, including complex legislation and regulation and the substantial adaptation to be undertaken on board vessels. The study provides suggestions on how to alleviate these challenges through improved logbooks and trainings. While stakeholders have already worked on this during the transition phase, further room for improvement remains, according to the study.
The landing obligation has been fully in force since 2019 after a phasing-in period from 2015 with the objective to gradually eliminate discards by avoiding and reducing as far as possible unwanted catches by ensuring that all catches are landed. Discarding unwanted catches at sea is a substantial waste of marine biological resources and negatively affects the financial viability of fisheries. The landing obligation encourages fishers to adapt their fishing patterns to avoid a waste of resources.
The study had been commissioned with a view to improving the understanding of the measures put in place to facilitate LO implementation. Moreover, the study aimed to build up knowledge on how these measures contribute to reducing or avoiding unwanted catches by increasing selectivity, and eliminating discards. Drawing on the collaboration and exchanges during the phasing in of the landing obligation (2015 – 2019 and beyond) between Member States, fishers, NGOs, scientists, the European Parliament and the Commission, the study approached around 150 stakeholders operating in the North Sea, Baltic Sea, and western waters.
To quantify and measure the success of the landing obligation, a more analytical approach was required. For this purpose, the contractors of the study developed tools and methods for cleaning filtering and displaying discard information in the STECF Fisheries Dependent Information (FDI) database. This included the creation of an interactive app (ShinyApp) on overall trends in discard patterns.
Effective control and enforcement are essential to the success of the landing obligation. Due to the failure to adopt the necessary means, such as REM, indications point towards widespread non-compliance and prolific, undocumented illegal discarding of catches. This represents a significant risk, as it is vital to maintain and improve the collection and reporting of catch data. If the data reported do not reflect the actual removals, this will significantly impact the quality of scientific advice and may compromise the achievement of the sustainability objectives of the common fisheries policy (CFP). The Commission counts on the co-legislators to take this into account in the ongoing negotiations of the revision of the Control Regulation.
The Commission will use the important findings of this study in further discussions with scientists, the Member States, the Advisory Councils and the European Parliament and in the course of preparing the report on the functioning of the CFP by the end of 2022. The study is providing timely input for this report.
The study is also useful for all the stakeholders involved in the implementation of the landing obligation, such as the Member States and industry, as it shows a comprehensive analysis of the state of play and provides recommendations for improvement.