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Lack of Regulations

Last updated: 08/07/2015

Each year, depending on the fishery, up to 60 percent of live fish and other organisms caught in European fishing gear are thrown back into the sea.

These discards undermine the effectiveness of measures taken to conserve the resource, since even though these fish are not landed, they nevertheless die and thereby reduce the existing stock and its spawning capacity.

Several of the fisheries with the highest discard rates are concentrated in the North Sea. On average, The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) estimates the discard rate for cod in the North Sea to be around 30 to 50 percent. In the Baltic Sea discards are comparatively much lower. ICES have estimated the discards in the Eastern Baltic cod fisheries to be on average around 15 percent of the total catch in numbers an around 6 percent of total catch in weight. However, on individual fishing trips the discard rates can be much higher, some claim as much as 5 to 6 times the amount landed.

The objective to reduce by-catches and discards is thus a key to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), as the Commission already highlighted in 2002 in a Communication on this subject. On the basis of experiments conducted in Europe and elsewhere, as well as recent scientific studies, the European Commission presented a new Communication in 2007 with proposals for a policy to reduce the level of unwanted catches and eliminate discards in European fisheries. A discard ban in European waters is now part of the last reformed CFP.