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Overlooked Impacts And Challenges Of The New European Discard Ban

F. Sardà, M. Coll, J. J. Heymans, K. Stergiou
Published 2015 · Business

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Discards are the portion of animal and plant material in the catch that is dumped back at sea. The Common Fisheries Policy plan proposed by the European Commission for 2014–2020 presents a controversial goal: to enforce the landing of fishing discards as a measure to encourage their reduction. This historical and political decision will shape the future of the fishing exploitation in European Seas. Discards generated by European fleets are not negligible, and its reduction is an ecological, socioeconomical and moral imperative. However, it must be achieved through the reduction in discards at source and the promotion of selective and non-destructive gears. We argue it is doubtful that this discard ban will result in an effective reduction of discards. The proposed measure may, in fact, negatively affect ecosystems at all levels of biological hierarchy by disregarding the Ecosystem-Based Approach to Fisheries and the Precautionary Principle. It could negatively impact several species by increasing fishing mortality, also commercial species if discards are not accounted in the total allowable catch. Communities preying on discards will likely be affected. The role discards currently play in the energy turnover of current ecosystems will be modified and should be fully evaluated. The landing of discards will likely generate new markets of fishmeal due to the growing demands for marine living resources. The ban will require substantial public investment to deal with technical problems on board and to control and enforce. Therefore, this measure should be only implemented after rigorous scientific and technical studies have been developed.
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