Governance of Discards via the European Union Common Fisheries Policy

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Governance of Discards to Achieve Ecosystem Maintenance via the
European Union Common Fisheries Policy

European Parliament Public hearing on the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, “Ways of Securing the Future of Our Fisheries Resources”, 4 May 2011, 15.00 to 18.30

Panel 2 – Ways of Reducing or Eliminating Discards

European Parliament, Rue Wiertz 60, 1047 Brussels,Building A. SPINELLI, Room A3G-3, BELGIUM

Testimony by Eric Gilman, PhD, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership and Hawaii Pacific University, College of Natural Sciences, EGilman@FisheriesResearchGroup.org
www.sustainablefish.org; http://bit.ly/biodiversity-fisheries-research

Honorable Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Carmen Fraga Estevez, Chair of the Committee on Fisheries, Vasilios Mylonas who kindly invited me to provide testimony to you today, Honorable Members of the European Parliament, fellow panelists, thank you for this opportunity to discuss alternative approaches to govern discards under the Common Fisheries Policy.  

MAIN POINTS

 I highlight the following five main points, extracted from my more detailed written testimony:

1. An integral component of implementing the ecosystem approach to fisheries, effective governance of all sources of fishing mortality, including from discarded bycatch, is needed to achieve ecological sustainability. Aims of managing discards are to prevent overexploitation; maintain ecosystem structure, processes and services, including sustainable fisheries; and reduce economic inefficiency and waste.

2. Effectiveness, as well as ecological and socioeconomic effects, from requiring full retention are fishery-specific, and therefore fishery-specific assessment of alternative discards governance measures is warranted.  In some fisheries, banning discards could create a strong incentive for voluntary employment of methods to avoid the capture of unmarketable species and sizes of fish, and eliminate high-grading.  However, in fisheries with limited monitoring, surveillance and enforcement, unless there is strong industry ownership for the measure, there would be low compliance and reduced reporting of discards. A discards ban in combination with 100% monitoring would result in increased scientific data; otherwise, a discard ban might result in reduced reporting of discards, resulting in errors in stock assessments and scientific advice, and increase the probability of exceeding reference points.  In some fisheries, market conditions preclude having a discards ban create an incentive to minimize non-target catch, for example, in fisheries where non-target species and sizes of fish are close in value to the target species and controls are not in place that reduce the revenue or quota to fisheries for these landed species that are subject to a discards ban.  In fisheries where vulnerable species subject to discarding have even a small post-release survival rate, required full retention would exacerbate overexploitation.  Furthermore, full retention might create market demand for species that are relatively vulnerable to overexploitation.

3.  Combinations of regulatory controls, excluding required full retention in some fisheries, have effectively reduced discards, including provisions for flexibility in output controls to reduce incentives for discarding.  These include overcatch provisions, allowing catch to exceed up to a specified percentage of vessel quota annually and be recorded against the quota for the following year.  Quota substitution arrangements allow fishers in a multispecies fishery who overcatch a quota species to forfeit the use of uncaught quota of another species. Splitting quota into multiple grades based on fish size is another tool to reduce discards.  “Deemed value’, a New Zealand measure in an ITQ fishery with a high observer coverage rate, allows fishers to land and sell overquota catch if they pay a government-established fee, where the fee level is established so as to provide a sufficient incentive for fishers to land the catch, but to provide a disincentive for fishers with insufficient quota to target these stocks.  Various gear technology methods, involving changes in fishing gear and practices, as well as time and area fishery closures to avoid temporally and spatially predictable hotspots of unwanted catches, can also effectively reduce bycatch rates.

4. Counter to prevailing international guidance, augmenting fishing and gear selectivity to reduce discards, in some cases, might exacerbate adverse ecological effects.  A paradigm shift is overdue.  Instead, implementing an ecosystem approach to fisheries requires managing fishing and gear to preserve community structure and size-frequency distributions of species characteristic of unexploited conditions, accomplished by distributing fishing mortality across marine ecosystem components at sustainable levels according to natural production capacities.  Depending on the individual fishery, achieving this objective might require increasing fishing mortality of non-targets, including species and sizes that are currently subject to discarding, while reducing pressure on current target stocks.  
           However, there remains a need for fishing and gear selectivity to effectively mitigate the bycatch of species that are particularly vulnerable to overexploitation, including sharks, marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds, and keystone and foundation species, which play a disproportionate role in regulating ecosystem structure and processes. 

5. If the Commission for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries elects to have the proposed discards ban apply to non-principal market species, then there will be a need to develop or augment markets for currently non-utilized or underutilized species and sizes in order to create demand for their supply at sustainable mortality rates, and address the logistics for handling and processing the mixture of species and sizes for these products.  Otherwise, even in the case where resources for surveillance are adequate to enforce prescribed full retention, retained unwanted bycatch may be dumped following landing.  

WRITTEN TESTIMONY

Governance of Discards to Achieve Ecosystem Maintenance via the European Union Common Fisheries Policy

1.  Adverse Effects from Discarding

Overexploitation in marine fisheries, including from discard fishing mortality, is currently the largest driver of change and loss in global marine biodiversity, causing complex changes, from genetic diversity to ecosystem integrity, threatening to reach tipping points where irreversible regime shifts occur (Pauly et al. 2005; Pereira et al. 2010).  Responsible fisheries conduct requires effective governance of all sources of fishing mortality, including from retained target catch, retained and discarded bycatch, and unobserved mortalities (United Nations 1982, 1995; Hall et al. 2000; FAO 1995, 2003 2010b,c; Gilman 2011).  An integral component of implementing the ecosystem approach to fisheries, this is necessary to contribute to maintaining marine biodiversity, ecosystem structure and functioning, and is necessary to avoid negative socioeconomic consequences for fishing communities (Hall et al. 2000; FAO 2003, 2008, 2010c).  Overarching goals are to prevent the overexploitation of all populations and stocks subject to fishing mortality per se, including species and sizes subject to discarding, and also to avoid and minimize adverse effects from all fishery removals, including discard fishing mortality, on ecosystem structure, processes, and services, including fishery resources. 

            Discarded catch, along with offal from processing fish at sea, and discarded and lost bait, raise an ecological concern due to changes in the foraging behavior, diet, and competitiveness of coastal and marine species, for instance, by scavenging seabirds, marine mammals, sharks, and benthic scavengers; changes to the food web and distribution of biomass within an ecosystem; and in fisheries where discards are spatially concentrated, may also cause localized anoxia of the seabed (Blaber et al. 1995; Goñi 1998; Groenewold and Fonds 2000; Hall et al. 2000; Stevens et al. 2000; FAO 2003; Gilman et al. 2006a; Furness et al. 2007; Franco et al. 2008).  Furthermore, discarded bycatch raises a social issue over waste, representing a threat to the long-term capacity to provide food and a source of livelihood (Clucas 1997; Harrington et al. 2005; Kelleher 2005; FAO 2010a).  Unsustainable levels of discarded and retained bycatch also have concomitant negative socioeconomic consequences for fishing communities (FAO 2008).  Overexploitation of commercially important incidental species, including bycatch of juveniles of a commercial species, can cause growth and recruitment overfishing, leading to a decline in future catch levels, and result in allocation issues between fisheries (Hall et al. 2000; Langley et al. 2009; Sumaila and Bailey 2011).  Minimizing fisheries waste (i.e., discarded catch that is fit for human consumption or that is used as feed for aquaculture or animal industries) is mainly a socioeconomic issue, although developing markets for currently discarded catch with concomitant increased retention could reduce fishing mortality of overexploited stocks. 

 

2.  Why Discarding Occurs

Fishers may discard catch due to market/economic considerations, such as discarding species and sizes lacking markets, with no or relatively low value, damaged catch with low or no value, species that are incompatible with the rest of the catch during storage (e.g., sharks, which concentrate urea in their blood which is converted by bacteria to ammonia, can contaminate other species in the hold), and high-grading involving discarding lower-value catch to make room in the hold for higher value catch, when room in the hold is a limiting factor, and the perceived difference in net value between discarded and retained fish is greater than the cost to replace the discard (Arnason 1994; Alverson et al. 1994; Hall 1996; Vestergaard 1996; Kelleher 2005).  Quality, including catch that is unfit for human consumption due to spoilage or toxicity, provides another reason to discard part of the catch.  Furthermore, output controls create incentives for discarding:  Quota induced high-grading occurs when a vessel reaches a species-based quota, and discards lower value grades to enable retaining higher value grades; over quota discarding occurs in multispecies fisheries when a quota for one species is reached, but quotas for other species are not in place or have not been reached, and the vessel discards additional catch of the species for which the quota has been reached; discarding sublegal individuals can occur to comply with measures for species-based minimum landing sizes; discarding may be conducted in order to meet prescribed catch composition (measures setting limits on the percent catch composition by species); and discarding may be conducted to comply with restrictions on retention by sex (e.g., crabs) (Anderson 1994; Arnason 1994; Alverson et al. 1994; Hall 1996; Kelleher 2005; Defra 2006; Coggins et al. 2007; Graham et al. 2007; Poos et al. 2010). 

            From 1992-2001, an average of 7.3 million tonnes of fish were annually discarded, representing 8% of the world catch (Kelleher 2005).  There have been substantial reductions in discard levels in recent years, in part, due to increased retention as a result of the development of markets for previously discarded species and sizes, but also from increased gear selectivity reducing catch rates of unmarketable catch (Pascoe 1997; Kelleher 2005; Gilman 2011). 


3.  Achieving Sustainable Discard Practices

Achieving ecologically and socioeconomically sustainable discard practices is not necessarily achieved via increasing fishing selectivity.  Selective fishing and gear, by concentrating fishing mortality on a narrow subset of an ecosystem’s components, can cause ecological and evolutionary change and loss, reduce ecosystem stability and alter ecosystem function and structure, with effects on ecosystems services including reduced fisheries productivity (Conover and Munch 2002; Bundy et al. 2005; Frid et al. 2006; Rochet et al. 2009; Zhou et al. 2010).  Selectively removing certain trophic levels, species, stocks, populations, sizes, and sexes alters their relative abundance within an ecosystem, resulting in ecological effects such as trophic cascades, and changes in predation pressure, with concomitant altered ecosystem structure and function (Ulanowicz and Puccia 1990; Casey and Meyers 1998; Stevens et al. 2000; Daskalov 2002; Pauly et al. 1998, 2002; Bundy et al. 2005; Frid et al. 2006; Bakun et al. 2009; Garcia et al. 2011).  Selective fishing can reduce genetic diversity by removing specific sizes, age classes, and/or sexes of a population, stock and species (Frid et al. 2006; Heino and Deickmann 2008; Zhou et al. 2010).  Increasingly recognized as cause for concern, as a result of fishing gear selecting for large individuals, due to market forces or management measures, marine capture fishing has altered the distribution of fish sizes; favored genotypes for maturation at an earlier age (in particular for fish species with relatively late maturation), smaller size, and slower growth; reduced the proportion of large, fast-growing individuals; reduced the fecundity, duration of the spawning season, as well as survival potential, size and growth rates of larvae, causing reduced reproductive potential and potential for recovery from overexploitation (Heino 1998; Law 2000; Stevens et al. 2000; Heino and Godo 2002; Pauly et al. 2002; Berkeley et al. 2004; Ernande et al. 2004; Birkeland and Dayton 2005; Swain et al. 2007; Fenberg and Roy 2008; Heino and Deickmann 2008; Zhou et al. 2010).  This may have caused irreversible changes in the gene pool, altering the evolutionary characteristics of exploited populations and species (Law 2000; Stevens et al. 2000; Pauly et al. 2002; Swain et al. 2007; Fenberg and Roy 2008; Zhou et al. 2010).  Counter to international guidance, distributing fishing mortality, including from discards, equivalently across facets of biodiversity, with sustainable fishing exploitation rates that are in proportion with species’, populations’, stocks’, and trophic level’s intrinsic capacity, is more likely to minimize change and loss across manifestations of marine biodiversity, including maintaining the integrity of trophic structure, species richness, and ecosystem structure and functioning, and sustaining ecosystem services – with predicted increased fisheries production (Hall 1996; Bundy et al. 2005; Fenberg and Roy 2008; Zhou et al. 2010; Garcia et al. 2011).  Depending on the individual fishery, achieving this objective might require increasing mortality of non-targets, including species and sizes that are currently subject to discarding.  This recommended paradigm shift from selective to ‘diluted’ fishing and gears has been proposed for at least 15 years (Hall 1996), and while there has been recent international attention (Garcia et al. 2011), selectivity remains the entrenched prevailing governance approach.  Effective implementation of diluted non-selective fishing mortality will require five components:

·         Eliminate the selective removal of larger species and individuals within populations, and replace this with fisheries and gears that result in the preservation of community structure and size-frequency distributions of species characteristic of unexploited conditions, accomplished by distributing fishing mortality across marine ecosystem components (communities within an ecosystem, time period, area, trophic level, assemblage, species, stock, population, and size, age class and sex within a population) at sustainable levels according to natural production capacities (Conover and Munch 2002; Birkeland and Dayton 2005; Fenberg and Roy 2008). 

·         Develop or augment markets for currently non-utilized or underutilized species, sizes, and sexes (e.g., Clucas 1997) so as to create demand for their supply at sustainable mortality rates, and address the logistics for handling and processing the mixture of species and sizes for these products (Hall et al. 2000). 

·         Reduce fishing mortality of species - to - intra-population components that are overexploited – in line with keeping fishing mortality rates commensurate with a species/stocks/population’s abundance and population growth. 

·         Continue selectivity to effectively mitigate bycatch of vulnerable (rare, endemic and threatened) species (e.g., sea turtles, seabirds, sharks, marine mammals), species critical for regulating ecosystem structure and processes (keystone and foundation species), and phylogenetically distinct species (Caro and O’Doherty 1999; Ellison et al. 2005; Redding and Moores 2006; Jordan 2009). 

·         Establish ecosystem-level ecological indicators, reference points and control rules to enable effective implementation of ecosystem-based fisheries management (Pikitch et al. 2004; Bundy et al. 2005), and monitor trends in abundance of species most vulnerable to fishing (Branch et al. 2010). 

 

4.  Fishery-Specific Considerations of Alternative Discard Control Measures

Several countries and regional fisheries management organizations have adopted measures that prohibit discarding at sea (e.g., Hampton 2003; Peacey 2003; Graham et al. 2007; IATTC 2009; WCPFC 2009; NEAFC 2010; Iceland Ministry of Fisheries 2011).  Ecological and socioeconomic effects from requiring full retention are fishery-specific, and therefore warrant fishery-specific assessment.  In some fisheries, banning discards could have a positive effect by creating a strong incentive for fishermen to voluntarily employ effective gear designs and fishing methods to avoid the capture of unmarketable species and sizes of fish and, and eliminating high-grading (Gillis et al. 1995; Graham et al. 2007).  For instance, various gear technology approaches can effectively reduce unwanted catches, as can avoiding temporally and spatially predictable hotspots of unwanted catches (Hall et al. 2000; Poos et al. 2010; Gilman et al. 2006c, 2009; Dunn et al. 2011; Gilman 2011).  Full retention may, however, be an ineffective mechanism to deter catch and reduce fishing mortality in some fisheries.  For example, in fisheries where non-target species and sizes of fish are close in value to the target species, a discard ban would provide low incentive for fishers to take measures to reduce their catch of these non-target species and sizes (e.g., juvenile/small bigeye tuna in purse seine fisheries, Gilman 2011).  Measures have been adopted to address this issue:  in Norway, a discard ban of fish below a minimum size is in place, and landed undersized fish are sold through sales organizations, but the revenue from the sales do not go to the fisheries, avoiding an incentive to catch small fish (Hall and Mainprize 2005; Graham et al. 2007), a measure that requires 100% onboard observer coverage to ensure compliance.  Similarly, in Iceland, fish that are required to be retained and landed result in a quota reduction of 50% of the landed weight of the fish subject to a discard ban, and in New Zealand, fishers receive half of the value of the fish subject to a discard ban (Elliston et al. 2005; Hall and Mainprize 2005).  Consideration is also warranted regarding whether required full retention might create markets for species that are relatively vulnerable to overexploitation and/or have a disproportionate role in regulating and maintaining ecosystem function or structure, leading to increased and potentially unsustainable fishing mortality rates.  In some fisheries, in combination with measures aimed to minimize rates of bycatch of vulnerable species, measures to maximize post-release survival rates of vulnerable stocks might be more likely to fulfill an aim of reducing fishing mortality of these stocks than would be a requirement for their full retention:  Banning discards may be detrimental for species groups that have even a small post-release survival rate.  This requires fishery-specific consideration, as survival rates of discards are highly variable between species groups (e.g., Chopin and Arimoto 1995; Laptikhovsky 2004; Suuronen 2005).  For overexploited stocks, if evidence suggests that a high rate of survival occurs, then prohibiting retention of these species in combination with best practice handling and release practices, would contribute to stock rebuilding, where required full retention might not reduce fishing mortality of these stocks.  Efficacy of a discard ban requires fishing industry ownership of the measure to achieve high compliance, flexibility in output controls to reduce incentives for discarding, or otherwise, extensive resources for surveillance and enforcement (Baulch and Pascoe 1992; Turner 1996; Kaufamann et al. 1999; Arnason 2002; Hall et al. 2000; Peacey 2003; Poos et al. 2010).  Otherwise, a discard ban might result in reduced reporting of discards, resulting in errors in stock assessments and scientific advice, and increase the probability of exceeding reference points (Pascoe 1997; Crowder and Murawski 1998; Poos et al. 2010).  Furthermore, if prescribed full retention applies to non-principal market species, and resources for surveillance and enforcement are sufficient, retained unwanted bycatch may be dumped following landing, unless markets for currently non-utilized or underutilized species, sizes, and sexes are developed to create demand for their supply at sustainable mortality rates, and logistics for handling and processing the mixture of species and sizes for these products are addressed, retained unwanted bycatch may be dumped following landing (Clucas, 1997; FAO, 1997; Hall et al., 2000; Kelleher, 2005).  
            In fisheries where resources for monitoring, surveillance and enforcement are relatively low, where a discards ban receives low compliance and reduces reporting fishing mortality from discards, in fisheries where a ban on discards provides little incentive for fishers to avoid and minimize the capture of non-target species and sizes, and in fisheries where vulnerable non-target species and sizes can be released alive and survive, various combinations of other regulatory controls could effectively reduce incentives for discarding and achieve overarching ecological and social goals for reduced fishing mortality of populations in need of protection and reduced wastage.  Optimal conditions for effective trials of bycatch and discard mitigation methods, and considerations for gear technology approaches, have been identified (Gilman et al. 2005; Catchpole and Gray 2010; Gilman 2011).  There are numerous case studies demonstrating the efficacy of combinations of control measures in reducing discards that do not necessarily include discard bans, both in fisheries with and without output controls.  For example, since 1984 when Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) management was introduced to Iceland’s demersal fisheries, there was no increase in discarding, in part, due to the use of onboard observers to enforce a ban on discarding at sea, an overcatch provision that allows catch to exceed up to 5% of vessel quota annually and be recorded against the quota for the following year, quota substitution arrangements in multispecies fisheries (allows fishers in a multispecies fishery who overcatch a quota species to forfeit the use of uncaught quota of another species, in this case, quota in Iceland demersal fisheries can be converted to ‘cod equivalents), and splitting quota into two grades based on fish size (Arnason 2002; Iceland Ministry of Fisheries 2011).  Similarly, in New Zealand’s ITQ fisheries, measures instituted to reduce incentives for discarding include a 10% overcatch provision, provisions for quota substitution (eliminated in 2001 due to persistent exceeding TACs for some bycatch species), and a provision referred to as ‘deemed value’ where fishers can land and sell overquota catch if they pay a government fee (Baulch and Pascoe 1992; Kaufamann et al. 1999; Peacey 2003).  The government sets deemed value levels for a species subject to a quota so as to provide a sufficient incentive for fishers to land the catch, but to provide a disincentive for fishers with insufficient quota to target these stocks (Peacey 2003).  Setting species-based quotas by grades as employed in Iceland is an approach to reduce the incentive for high-grading, but would require relatively high institutional resources to implement if quotas are split into a large number of categories of grades, and for multispecies fisheries (Arnason 1994, 2002).  Establishing quotas based on value instead of weight or number of a species can also reduce incentives for discarding via quota induced high-grading in quota-managed fisheries, however, this precludes setting TACs to achieve biologically-based limit reference points due to uncertainty in translating value quotas into fishing mortality levels (Turner 1996). 

 

5.  Minimum Framework for the Governance of Discarded Catch

Data collection protocols, onboard observer coverage, ecological risk assessment, binding control measures, surveillance, and enforcement comprise fundamental, minimum requirements for effective governance of discards in marine capture fisheries. A deficit in one or more of these governance framework components is likely to compromise the ability to achieve ecologically sustainable fisheries (Gilman 2011).

·         Discard data collection protocols:  In general, basic information needed to understand discards includes:  quantity, weight, species, age classes, length frequency, disposition when released, and date and location caught.  Dataset quality is improved through employment of standardized data collection methods and dataset formatting to enable interoperability and pooling of datasets.  A longer time series, and balanced observations temporally and spatially across a fisheries’ grounds, augment the range of supported scientific applications (Pitcher and Preikshot 2001; Kelleher 2005; Gilman et al. 2008a,b; Gilman 2011). 

·         Onboard observer coverage rates:  Observer data are vital to identifying and understanding any trends in discard rates and levels, and in assessing performance of control measures in a commercial setting, where methods for the employment of prescribed bycatch mitigation methods are known to differ from experimental conditions (Cox et al. 2007; Gilman et al. 2005, 2008b).  Adequate data collection protocols and observer coverage rates are needed to allow for robust statistical analyses of discards, including documentation of discard rates, fleet-wide extrapolations, and identification of when, where, and why discarding occurs.  The objectives of analyses (i.e., required levels of accuracy and precision), the rate of discarding, amount of fishing effort, and distribution of discard catch determine the requisite onboard observer coverage rate (Hall 1999; McCracken 2005; Gilman 2011). 

·         Ecological risk assessment:  Fishery-specific assessments should be conducted to enable an understanding of the effect of fishing mortality on discard species and to enable an understanding of broader effects of bycatch across facets of biodiversity (i.e., how does bycatch fishing mortality and discards affect marine biodiversity, from genetic diversity to ecosystem integrity) (Bjorndal et al. 2011; Gilman 2011).  Ecological risk assessment of the effects of fishing can be undertaken employing a hierarchical approach with three levels along a continuum from a qualitative first order to quantitative rigorous assessment (Hobday et al. 2007; Kirby 2006; Sainsbury and Sumaila 2001).  Ecological risk assessments have focused on assessing effects of fisheries on vulnerable species, including bycatch of seabirds, sea turtles, marine mammals and elasmobranchs (Gilman 2011) and have not augmented knowledge of broader effects of bycatch across facets of biodiversity, ranging from reducing genetic diversity of populations subject to bycatch fishing mortality to altering ecosystem regulation or structure due to overexploitation of a bycatch species that is a keystone or foundation species, respectively. 

·         Control measures to mitigate problematic discards:  Legally binding measures, with measurable/quantitative performance standards, are required to mitigate problematic discarding identified through comprehensive ecological risk assessments (Gilman 2011). Combinations of control measures can effectively reduce incentives for discarding (Section 4).  Additionally, measures may be needed to mitigate pollution resulting from discarding, in general, where fishing grounds occur in areas where adverse pollution effects from the discharge of discarded catch, offal from processed catch, and spent bait are likely to result, fisheries are understood to have relatively large levels of discharges, and discharges during fishing operations are spatially concentrated. 

·         Surveillance and enforcement:  Adequate surveillance and enforcement mechanisms are needed so that (i) surveillance activities enable assessment of compliance of discards control measures; (ii) enforcement procedures are transparent and effective; (iii) penalties/sanctions for detected infringements provide a large incentive for fisher compliance with binding measures; and (iv) transparent reporting on enforcement activities and conclusions enable confidence that discard measures have high compliance with effective enforcement of infractions. 

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