LogoDiscardLess Strategies for the gradual elimination of discards in European fisheries

Identifying choke species challenges for an individual demersal trawler in the North Sea, lessons from conversations and data analysis

A likely side-effect of introducing the landing obligation of the 2013 Common Fisheries Policy into mixed fisheries is the occurrence of the “choke species” problem. When discarding no longer is an option, leasing quota or changing fishing practices remain important tools to avoid choke species. Here, the scale and tactics linked to using avoidance behaviour to reduce choke species is investigated by analysing the fishing behaviour of a single demersal trawler in the North Sea. Analysis combined qualitative information collected from through interviews with the vessel owner and skipper, along with quantitative analysis on fisheries data. From the interviews, saithe and cod were identified as potential choke species and subsequent analysis focused on these two species. The analysis of catch and quota composition showed that cod would choke the fishery early if no catch-quota balancing options were available, resulting in a 87% reduction in revenue, while saithe could choke the fishery later, resulting in a 43% reduction in revenue. Avoidance behaviour was difficult to detect from fisheries data, which was explained by avoidance taking primarily place through very fine-scale tactical choices rather than large displacements. Catch composition showed that saithe is distributed more patchily than cod, with most hauls containing small amounts of saithe and a few hauls containing large amounts. In conclusion this paper supplies an view on the choke species problem seen from the perspective of an individual fisher and highlights the amount of real-time tactical decisions and trade-offs that need to be made when operating in mixed-fisheries.

Lars O. Mortensen, Clara Ulrich, Jan Hansen, Rasmus Hald

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