Reducing discards without reducing profit: Free gear choice in a Danish result-based management trial

Lars O. Mortensen, Clara Ulrich, Søren Qvist Eliasen, Hans Jakob Olesen

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The 2013 Common Fisheries Policy introduced a landing obligation on a range of species. This is changing the fundamental principles on which EU fisheries management is based, with more focus on the full accountability of all catches (a move towards catch quota management) and less accountability on the means used to obtain these catches (a move towards results-based management). To investigate the potentials and challenges that these paradigm shifts give rise to, a 6-months ‘unrestricted gear’ trial was performed in Denmark in 2015,. Twelve trawlers of different size, rigging, fishing area and target species were challenged to test their own solutions to reduce unwanted bycatch and/or choke species, while maintaining their profitability. Fully documented fishery (FDF) was required, including electronic monitoring, self-estimation of discards and haul-by-haul catch documentation. Fishers’ participation in the trial was partly incentivized through the allocation of additional quota. Fishers used twinned standard and test gears whenever possible, or switched gear sequentially otherwise.. The participating fishers tested different options depending on their fishery and the type of issues they faced individually, and adjusted their test fishery over time through incremental small steps. A total of 1497 hauls were analysed for landings, discards and discard-ratio (discard to catch ratio), along with species composition and temporal trends. Nine vessels reduced discard ratio in the test fishery, one showed no difference between test and control fishery, while two vessels displayed an increase in discard ratio. The catch compositions were also significantly different, with fewer predicted “choke species” occurring in the test fisheries and a more valuable size composition. Ultimately, despite smaller landings in multiple vessels, no vessel showed reduction in value-per-unit-effort (VPUE) and one Baltic vessel significantly increased the VPUE. No temporal trends in discard ratio were noted. This trial showed that relaxing technical regulations has a potential to provide some flexibility to cope with the landing obligation, where unwanted catches could be reduced to some extent without negative effects on economic viability. Some practical implementation challenges were nevertheless encountered, which are discussed in the perspective of implementing results-based management at full scale.
Original languageEnglish
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1469-1479
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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