Fishers show how to discard the discards

Earlier today I asked whether the ‘discard’ practice of sea fishing – throwing good fish back dead – is really being discarded.

It’s about the sea but this political stuff gets dry. The European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee is arguing about the Common Fisheries Policy.

Meanwhile some British fishers have been trying a different way to manage themselves. My fellow blogger Eivind Burkow at The Coastal House says that the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and the Department for Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have shown that it’s possible to reduce discards almost to zero. Their secret? Selective fishing.

To a landlubber like me, selective fishing is a mystery. But apparently it can be done. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF)* promotes selective fishing gear. The MMO knows how to fish selectively and they’re showing that it can work.

* Whatever the acronym ‘WWF’ stands for now, these people are fighting for wildlife. Including wild fish.


About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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8 Responses to Fishers show how to discard the discards

  1. I suspect that a certain chef will be delighted to learn of this. Are you following him on Twitter so that you can make him aware of your blog?

  2. EqFe says:

    It was always certain that if fishers(?) continued to spend the time and money discarding fish that were caught in excess of quota, they would eventually figure out how to reduce the overfishing. Just as it was always certain that if they were allowed to keep and sell (which I’m certain happens sometimes) quotas would become meaningless.
    It’s of course a damn shame that edible fish have to be discarded. A small trawler in Canada, got a nice size and valuable tuna in his net, which he had to discard dead, but one has to suspect that it would happen much more often, had he been allowed to keep it.
    In the US, we now have a number of reality TV shows following a half dozen boats in a number of fishing industries, tura, crab, lobster etc. All hard working men and women trying to provide a decent living for their families. It’s a tough life, getting tougher every year, and there doesn’t appear to be any easy answers.

  3. I’m not sure how specific you can be with ‘selective fishing gear’, in the way WWF is talking about it. They mention turtle excluder devices, which are brilliant, and there are commercial nets that are more dolphin-friendly (as in, reduced bycatch) than other versions or that have different mesh sizes with the aim of excluding juvenile fish.
    But the WWF competition winner last year was for quicker-sinking fishing gear to reduce seabirds getting caught… so there’s probably a way to go before we can have, say, a boat catching its full quota of haddock or plaice with close to zero bycatch of other fish.
    The better system I’ve seen is when fishermen – who catch a decent haul of fish they haven’t got a quota for – are allowed to buy part of another boat’s quota for that fish. Properly regulated, the system of buying and selling quotas (as long as the quotas were very strict) could help reduce that bycatch of edible but unsellable fish.

    • argylesock says:

      Yes I wonder about the net shown on the WWF page. It looks as though it relies simply on mesh size.

      The quota-trading idea sounds promising, though. Where have you seen it? I’ve heard that countries? companies? trade their quotas for something – greenhouse gases perhaps – I should research this.

      Another idea which sounds obvious to landlubber me is the idea of finding a shoal that you want to catch and dropping your net into it. It’s probably not that easy though, is it?

      • With the last idea – yes, with the technology in terms of hi-tech fish finders, sonar etc and fishing operators/scientists’ knowledge of fish migration patterns, you should be able to drop a net and bag the fish you want. In theory anyway – but even on my recreational fishing boat trips, it’s never been that simple…
        The quota trading was mentioned in Ted Danson’s Oceana book, page 119. Glen Brooks from the Gulf Fishermen’s Association (USA) says that individual fishing quotas help reduce bycatch in the Gulf – more detail is in the book.

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