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Quota exhaustion and discarding: how Ireland’s monthly quota system has a limited relationship with discarding patterns in the commercial fishing fleet

The Irish fishing fleet is subject to monthly quotas which are designed to ensure an equal share between vessels and to spread uptake throughout the year. This monthly quota system also allows us to study the links between discarding and quota exhaustion once a month rather than once a year, as would be the case in most other countries. The hypothesis that discards of cod, haddock, and whiting would increase through the month, as quotas were used up, was tested using observer data collected from commercial fishing vessels. Other than for whiting the results showed no relationship between discarding and day of the month. Instead gear type and target fishery were bigger drivers of discarding with restrictive quotas for cod and haddock resulting in consistent discarding of these species throughout the month. Improvements in gear selectivity may aid in reducing discards but due to the mixed nature of the fishery there is limited ability for vessels to reduce catches of these quota restricted species. Understanding how such a quota management system may influence fishing and discarding behaviour is important when developing management tools to assist in avoiding unwanted catch. This is especially important with the introduction of the Landing Obligation in EU fisheries.

Julia Calderwood, David G. Reid

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