, , , , , , ,

Another aspect of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is that of the discard ban. Discarding refers to the practice of returning unwanted catches to the sea due to (WWW1):

  • quota restrictions
  • high grading (choosing to keep the most valuable fish)
  • minimum landing sizes
  • market conditions

This restriction on commercial fishing was added to the new CFP in 2014, and forces fishermen to land every individual fish caught as part of their total allowable catch. Also known as a landing obligation (EU, 2013), this regulation came into action from January 1st 2015 for *pelagic fisheries (WWW2) and extended to certain **demersal species from the 1st January 2016 (WWW3). Landing obligations are aimed to be in effect for all fisheries from 2019 (WWW1). Prior to this, fishermen were permitted to discard any non-target species caught, as well as individuals of target species deemed to not be commercially valuable, such as being below a desired size or weight. The phasing period (2015-19) was designed to give fisherman time to adjust to the proposed provisions.


Photo Credit (WWW4)

Many discarded species have been shown to have high mortality post catch, therefore, despite not being a direct target of the fishing industry these species have suffered population decline (Evan et al., 1994). Before this restriction came into play, up to one third of all catches were returned to the sea as discards in trawl fisheries alone (Alverson et al., 1994; Borges et al., 2005).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Failure to adhere to this regulation, can result in substantial fines, as well as court appearances, and loss of fishing licences. This has created a call for increase in quotas to prevent major income losses for fishery dependent businesses (Cosgrove et al., 2015). It has yet to be seen what the true effect of this ban has been having on Irish fisheries, but pilot studies carried out have shown that the discard ban combined with use of target specific fishing gear can help reduce any potential economic loss brought about by this restriction (Cosgrove et al., 2015). However, this regulation can be difficult to monitor, as it is impossible to know at port if landings are in fact what was caught, or if discarding has occurred further out to sea. It is for this reason that fisheries observers have been employed to monitor exactly what is being caught aboard Irish fishing vessels.


*Pelagic fish swim in mid-waters or near the surface and include species such as mackerel and Herring

**Demersal fish live and feed on or near the bottom of seas or lakes and include round and flat white fish.

Seán MacGaghann


Alverson, D.L., Freeberg, M.H., Murawski, S.A., Pope, J.G., (1994). A global assessment of fisheries bycatch and discards. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper, 339, 233.

Borges, L., Rogan, E., and Officer, R. 2005a. Discarding by the demersal fishery in the waters around Ireland. Fisheries Research, 76: 1 –13

Cosgrove, R., Graham, N., Curtin, R., Moore, S.-J., Kelly, E., & Keatinge, M. (2015). At sea simulation of the operational and economic impacts of the landing obligation on Irish demersal fisheries. Report to the Discard Implementation Group, (February), 13.

European Parliament and Council of the European Union. (2013). REGULATION (EU) No 1380/2013 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1954/2003 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2371/2002 and (EC) No. 639/2004 and Council Decision 2004/585. Official Journal of the European Union, L354(28.12.2013), 22–61.

Evans, S.M., Hunter, J.E., Elizal, Wahju, R.I.(1994) Composition and fate of the catch and bycatch in the Farne Deep (North Sea) Nephrops fishery. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 51, 155– 168.

WWW1: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/seafood/sea-fisheriespolicymanagementdivision/landobligationsdiscardsban/

WWW2: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/seafood/sea-fisheriespolicymanagementdivision/landingobligationsdiscardsban/DelRegEU24382015discardplan150216.pdf

WWW3: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/seafood/sea-fisheriespolicymanagementdivision/landingobligationsdiscardsban/DelRegEU13932014discardplan150216.pdf

WWW4: http://theblackfish.org/opinion/discard-ban-no-cure/