LogoDiscardLess Strategies for the gradual elimination of discards in European fisheries

An overview of fisheries discards in the Azores

In contrast to the vast majority of European maritime territories, the Azores is an isolated oceanic archipelago in the North East Atlantic characterised by small-scale hooks-and-lines fisheries. Yet, in spite of the low environmental impact of such fishing gears, there is no solid integrative information on the discard practices. This study bridges this gap by providing a comprehensive, historic overview of catch and associated discarding from major Azorean fisheries. An estimated catch of 1.02 million tonnes was taken in the Azores EEZ during the 1950–2014 period, of which only 5.0% were discarded (avg. 784 t/year). In recent years, discards were mostly attributable to the bottom longline (447 t/year, 10.3% of total catch) and artisanal purse-seine (270 t/year, 13.0%) fisheries. Discarding in the Azorean pelagic longlining fleet was also high (246.3 t/year, 43.6%) due to low retention of sharks on board, as opposed to that of the foreign and mainland fleets. The overall low amount of discards in the Azorean fisheries is the result of a high fishing selectivity combined with wide catch utilization. However, the upcoming European Landing Obligation could still have detrimental impacts on these fisheries. Further, some bycatch of protected/prohibited species occasionally occurs and could become a conservation issue if not carefully monitored.

L.Fauconnet, C.K.Pham, A.Canha, P.Afonso, H.Diogo, M.Machete, H.M.Silva, F.Vandeperre, T.Morato

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