The European Fisheries Control Agency, in cooperation with the Member States Control Expert Group for the Baltic Sea Fisheries Forum (BALTFISH), has carried out an evaluation of compliance with the landing obligation (LO) in selected fisheries in the Baltic Sea during 2017 and 2018.
The evaluation covered plaice, in addition to the species already included in the previous analysis, which were cod, Atlantic salmon, herring and sprat.
Three different methods were implemented for evaluating compliance with the Landing Obligation, on the basis of Last Haul (LH) inspections, together with the estimates obtained from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), and data compiled by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) of the Commission, and the trends in the number of suspected infringements.
Although an overall good compliance level with the LO was observed in pelagic gear herring and sprat fisheries over the study period, the trend in other demersal segments in the Baltic Sea remains preoccupying as a lower level of compliance with the LO appears in the fixed and towed gears catching plaice, as well as towed gear fleet segments targeting cod during 2017 and 2018.
The evaluation concludes by recommending on one hand, the continuation of the LH programme, particularly for certain species and fleet segments combinations, and on the other hand, encouraging alternative methods to monitor compliance with the LO, such as control observers or Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM), which would help deter illegal practices while enhancing the reference data available for evaluating compliance.
An updated evaluation covering the period 2019-2020 is already in progress.
Background: The Landing Obligation in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)
Discarding is the practice of returning unwanted catches to the sea, either dead or alive, because they are undersized, due to market demand, the fisherman has no quota or because catch composition rules impose this. The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) of 2013 aimed at gradually eliminating the wasteful practice of discarding through the introduction of the landing obligation. This radical change in fisheries management aims to improve fishing behaviour through improvements in selectivity.
There are some exemptions to the landing obligation. Catches, from species regulated by catch limits (TACs) or by Minimum Size can still be returned to the sea if they are covered by exemptions such as de minimis and high survivability (defined in the discard plans) or damaged fish (by predators, disease or any other potential contamination). These catches are not counted against the quota, but they must be documented in the logbook.
The article 15-13 of the CFP Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 reads: “For the purpose of monitoring compliance with the landing obligation, Member States shall ensure detailed and accurate documentation of all fishing trips and adequate capacity and means, such as observers, closed-circuit television (CCTV) and others. In doing so, Member States shall respect the principle of efficiency and proportionality.”