Implications of the EU Landings Obligation for Nephrops (prawn) trawl fisheries

Clive Fox
Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dunstaffnage, Oban, PA37 1QA

T: 01631 559000

The new Landings Obligation, often called the discards ban, is a major change in European fisheries policy. This change of direction appears to have been introduced largely in response to the phenomenal success of a high profile publicity campaign – Hugh’s Fish Fight. The basic change will be to require all quota managed fish which are caught at sea to be landed to port. This will include under-sized or otherwise unmarketable fish. The change is supposed to largely eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, the practice of discarding which is seen as both wasteful and damaging. The Commission hope that this change in direction should encourage the development and uptake of more selective fishing gears, encourage fisher behaviour which reduces catches of unwanted fish and lead to more accurate recording of total catch.

Perhaps somewhat belatedly the fishing industry, science advisors and politicians are beginning to wake up to what this policy change may really mean for different sectors of the industry. My talk will focus on the Scottish Nephrops trawl fisheries. This is an economically important fishery worth around £68 million (2012 figures) but a fishery which is not without controversy. In some areas, trawling for prawns has been blamed for the depletion of whitefish stocks or the failure of these to rebuild, although the evidence is hotly debated. In addition, incidental mortality inflicted on protected and endangered species, such as common skate, may be an issue in some locations.

In March 2014 we held a workshop attended by representatives from industry, policy, science and other stakeholders to consider the potential impacts of the discards ban and possible ways forward for the Scottish Nephrops prawn trawl sector.

In this talk I will summarise the background to the prawn trawl fisheries including the overall value, the vessels involved and where the fleets operate and describe what the “Landings Obligation” may mean for this sector. In the second part of the workshop we discussed potential solutions to some of the issues and I will also describe what new research we think needs to be undertaken.

One major problem with the discards ban is that it may just encourage non-compliance. Nearly everyone involved wants to avoid this situation but we do need to be aware that this could be an un-intended consequence of a policy change brought in largely in response to a public campaign.

The full workshop report Fox CJ (2014) A workshop to address the issues surrounding a discarding ban in the Scottish Nephrops fisheries, Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland, St Andrews, 37 pp. is free to download from:

or from my ResearchGate page doi:10.13140/2.1.2661.2802