LogoDiscardLess Strategies for the gradual elimination of discards in European fisheries

Where do we work?

Where do we work Discardless map



Nine relevant cases studies were selected to be investigated by DiscardLess:

The Azores
The Eastern Mediterranean Sea
The Western Mediterranean Sea
The Bay of Biscay
The Celtic Sea
The Eastern English Channel
The North Sea and West of Scotland
The Icelandic Sea
The Barents Sea


The Azores case study focuses on deep-sea bottom and drifting hook-and-line fisheries and represents a non-trawl fisheries example in the project. Trawling is forbidden throughout most of the region’s EEZ (EU regulation) and hook-and-line is the most important fishery, both in terms of landed value, number of boats and jobs. The drifting bottom longline targeting black scabbard fish is a very recent fishery in the Azores requiring further discard baseline knowledge. Discards from these fisheries include significant volumes of at least ten species of deep-water sharks, many of which are listed in the IUCN Red List of vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered species and with zero-quota under the CFP. In addition to avoiding catching these species (e.g. through fishing tactics), adverse fishing effects on these stocks can be minimized by improved handling of caught sharks to ensure their increased survival upon release, opening for exemptions to the landing obligation.


The Eastern Mediterranean Sea case studies offer a clear opportunity to use the results of the first half of the project directly to support the implementation of the landing obligation in the Mediterranean, since the policy will first enter into force in 2017 in this area. This timing is an integral part of the design of the project, coordinated through a mid-term event aiming specifically at knowledge transfer from the project to the Mediterranean implementation.
The case study covers the NW Aegean Sea mixed demersal trawl fishery targeting a multitude of species. Discard ratios are high (>40%) as is fishing pressure on juveniles. High grading also occurs. The DiscardLess approach builds on existing knowledge of unwanted catches in the studied marine ecosystem by: i) working closely with stakeholders and local fishers to develop bio-economic scenarios to cope with the socio-economic consequences of the landing obligation, ii) reviewing and appraising existing solutions in terms of selectivity, and iii) disclosing essential fish habitats and grounds with high concentrations of unwanted catches in collaboration with fishers and couple that with scientific information to minimise discards. This will advance good practice and more efficient regional discard mitigation strategies and will transfer the acquired knowledge of discard mitigation strategies to Greek Stakeholders.


The Western Mediterranean case studies offer a clear opportunity to use the results of the first half of the project directly to support the implementation of the landing obligation in the Mediterranean, since the policy will first enter into force in 2017 in this area. This timing is an integral part of the design of the project, coordinated through a mid-term event aiming specifically at knowledge transfer from the project to the Mediterranean implementation.
The case study focuses on two contrasting areas: the French and Spanish Gulf of Lions-Catalan coast and the Balearic archipelago. In each of the two areas, two bathymetric strata, middle slope and deep shelf are used as parallel ‘study systems’. At the deep shelf, European hake is the dominant species exploited by different gear types (trawlers, longliners, gillnetters), while at the middle slope, red shrimp dominate catches and is exploited exclusively by trawlers. Discard levels and species composition vary considerably among the two depth strata. The western Mediterranean case study focuses on defining sensitive habitats and assess the impact of potential future spatial strategies. The case contributes to the monitoring of the effects of the implementation of the landing obligation and to the review and analysis of fishing selectivity, taking advantage of previous projects performed in the area. Strategies for discard avoidance will be devised in tight collaboration with the fishing industry and scientific data will be used to create maps that show zones of high discard likelihood in space and time (i.e. seasonal patterns). The most appropriate and consensual approaches to incentives in the area will then be identified. Finally, the results will be included in the discard mitigations strategies (DMS) suggested for the case study and potentially other Mediterranean areas and policyrecommendations offered on how a discard policy can be successfully implemented.


The Bay of Biscay case study focuses on two contrasted fleets: the bottom trawlers and the pair trawlers. The Bay of Biscay fisheries exploit a range of different species and a variety of fleets operate in the area, including industrial and artisanal fleets. All of these fleets have different volumes of and reasons for discarding. The relevant DMS strategies are simulated and the results evaluated using economic and social indicators.The tools selected are discussed with the relevant stakeholders and representative vessels owners to evaluate the possible impacts and their applicability. Another important aspect is the adaptation of the vessel to the landings obligation, in a situation where storage capacity is an important limiting factor. Innovative alternatives for implementing on-board handling and storing facilities will be evaluated on a representative Basque trawler vessel, including aspects of control and traceability. Finally the low number of selling points offers significant opportunities in the processing of unavoidable unwanted catches to marketable products. DiscardLess evaluates the most suitable uses of unavoidable unwanted catches based on species specific allocation to animal feed or human consumption. Systems to classify and count the unwanted catches on land and appropriate cold storage conditions are tested. Pre-screening tests measures the consumer acceptance of the products selected for human consumption, and the valorisation alternatives are investigated, including a real-time pilot trial of the whole value chain.


The Celtic Sea case study focuses on the mixed demersal whitefish fishery. This case is particularly relevant as the fishery is multinational, catches many species together, and has a number of potential choke species that can lead to high discarding. It is particularly important at present as many of the key commercial species are recruiting well, resulting in large numbers of juveniles on the grounds. DiscardLess makes a comparison of the landing obligation progress, its implementation and impacts in the context of Irish, French and UK vessels operating in the area. It takes forward the decision support tool and collaborative approaches being developed in the EU-funded DEMARA project to assess the biological and economic consequences of discard avoidance. It is centred on collaboration between fishers and scientists to identify areas with elevated levels of unwanted species (TAC limited or undersize fish), using both tacit knowledge and scientific data from observer trips and surveys. We use this information to experimentally challenge individual fishers to minimise unwanted catch while maintaining economic viability, and to identify tools including gear that could be included in regional discard plans. This contrasts the different outcomes in relation to economic, governance and social factors in the three Member States.


In the Eastern English Channel case, DiscardLess focuses on mobile and fixed gear fleets targeting demersal species in this area. The mixed nature of these fisheries leads to high discards ratios, especially in the mixed demersal trawl fishery. The constraints exerted on fishers due to the combination of resource management measures, diverse fish communities and competition for space make the reduction of unwanted catches particularly challenging. The fishers, conscious of this challenge, participate into trials in this case. Ecosystem Impact assessments is performed using a selection of existing simulation models (ATLANTIS, ISIS-Fish, OSMOSE, EwE) that are used to assess the outcomes of DMS scenarios. The combination of models ensures the coverage of expected impacts at every level of the English Channel ecosystem, including selected socio-economic impacts. Changes in fish stocks and sensitive components of the marine ecosystems is monitored through analyses of routinely collected data and changes in the perception and perceived changed during and after the implementation of the landing obligation. Results of existing selective experiments in this area are made available for the project and the experience of fishers on avoidance of unwanted catches is collected. Various sources of data are used to create maps that show zones of high discard likelihood in space and time (i.e. seasonal patterns). This type of information is cross-validated and improved by the experience and knowledge of fishers and finally used as inputs to improve modelling tools. Challenge experiments with fishers allow testing some DMS at sea, evaluating their socio-economic impact and defining their technological requirements. A range of management measures are discussed with fishers and related incentives are identified.


The North Sea and West of Scotland case study focuses mainly on the Scottish and Danish demersal fisheries in Subareas IV-IIIa (North Sea, including Skagerrak and Kattegat) and VI (West of Scotland and Rockall). These areas support two large demersal fisheries: the demersal whitefish fishery (mostly larger offshore larger trawlers), and the Nephrops fishery (mostly smaller trawlers) in more discrete sandy or muddy grounds. The mixed whitefish fishery catches a variety of groundfish and demersal species. Some of these species are severely depleted and subject to very restrictive TACs, and there are currently substantial discards of commercial-sized fish of some species. More widely, there are problems of spatial stock heterogeneity and broad-scale quota regulations, which lead to localised discarding of commercial valued “choke” species such as cod, whiting, hake and saithe. In the Nephrops fishery, the main problems are the capture and discarding of undersized small gadoids (particularly haddock and whiting in periods of higher recruitment), along with the discarding of small Nephrops. All Work Package’s are covered in specific activities for this case: identification of the current status of ecosystem and fishery knowledge and data, innovative approaches to addressing knowledge gaps through underwater video monitoring and statistical estimation of discards for poorly sampled species, and estimation through simulation of the outcomes of selected scenarios; development of DMS scenarios and parameterisation of operational economic models; analyses of gear-base selectivity processes tactical solutions to optimise catch profiles under a landings obligation; identification and testing of policy mechanisms to encourage the uptake of the best options to minimise unwanted catches; technological solutions to support monitoring, control, surveillance and science observation (including inter alia REM (such as CCTV) and DNA technologies, building on previous advancements in this area); and evaluation and demonstration of the practical use of the unavoidable unwanted catches for fish meal and fish oil, fish feed/pet food or for human consumption, including cost/benefit calculations of the different product types.


The Icelandic Sea case study focuses on pelagic and demersal fisheries within the Icelandic EEZ (ICES area Va), bringing experience, knowledge and data from a fishery that has been operating successfully under a landing obligation for almost three decades. The level of detailed data availability within this case study provides valuable input on economic, social and environmental costs and benefits of a real-life implemented landing obligation. Similarly, the case study brings experiences from development and actual applications of technical and tactical methods for eliminating discards i.e. gear development, strategies, regulations and Monitoring, Control and Surveillance. Most importantly, the Icelandic case study contributes with input in the form of knowledge, experiences, data, solution/product development and testing/demonstration in regards to utilisation and monitoring, control and surveillance of unavoidable unwanted catches from the time of coming on-board the fishing vessels until reaching the consumer.


The Barents Sea fisheries and the approaches to reduce bycatch developed over the last 30 years provides valuable lessons when choosing best practices outlining policies in EU. The Barents Sea and its coastal zone is the arena of large cod, haddock, Greenland halibut and redfish fisheries. However, the shelf and the coast are also the nursery ground for the same species. This previously resulted in high rates of by-catch of juvenile fish in certain years, seasons and regions. The shrimp fishery was the first to experience area closures in 1983, and later in 1992 the obligation to use the Nordmøre grid selective device due to by-catch regulations imposed by the Directorate of Fisheries. Similar measures were introduced in other trawl fisheries and the protection of juveniles has contributed to the growth of the NEArctic cod stock now supporting a quota of approximately 1 million tons. As for Iceland, a thorough analysis of the by-catch regulations, their implementation and effect on stocks and ecosystem functioning and services in the Barents Sea provides valuable guidance for the introduction of the landing obligation in Europe.

Case study presentation and summary of biological knowledge, September 2015