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The Landing Obligation (discard ban) and potential implications for ports

From 1 January 2016, the ban is being applied to certain demersal fisheries until all quota fisheries are covered by 2019.

The Landing Obligation (or discard ban) is being introduced in a phased manner from 2015–2019 under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Practically, this means that fishermen must land all fish that are subject to catch limits (quota) under the CFP, including any undersized fish that cannot be sold for direct human consumption.

The discard ban was applied to all pelagic fisheries in 2015. From 1 January 2016, the ban is being sequentially applied to certain demersal fisheries (based on the catching gear used and sea area fished), until all quota fisheries are covered by 2019.

As additional fish stocks are brought under the ban, there is the potential for an increase in the quantities of undersized fish being landed at fishing ports that will need handling in specific ways. The phased introduction of the discard ban allows some time for areas to develop practical processes for handling the fish, to minimise the amounts that end up as waste.

We have compiled an inventory of the publically available information and guidance relating to the discard ban, as a tool to understand the potential implications of the discard ban. Such documents include statutory guidance for ports and other onshore businesses from Defra / MMO and information/resources from the Seafish Industry Authority. Challenges for the fishing industry and ports include not knowing what volume of undersized fish will be landed or how the fish will be stored.

There is no statutory obligation on ports to handle the undersize fish. However, if ports wish to consider providing facilities to help fishermen handle these fish, they may be able to access funding through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the provision of such facilities. If communal storage and handling facilities are provided and used, responsibility for the fish then passes to the site owner. The statutory guidance document from Defra/MMO explains the permissions that ports would require under the animal-by-product regulations in this instance.

As the implementation of the discard ban progresses, and the implications for the fishing industry, ports and other onshore businesses are better understood, more guidance will likely be made available. ABPmer will continue to keep abreast of guidance updates, including capturing the outputs from discard working/action groups across the UK as they are made available.

Key selected links

GOV.UK - Defra/MMO Statutory guidance for ports, markets, agents and other businesses.

Seafish - Onshore implications of the Landing Obligation [archived]