Sunday, November 29, 2015

The discard issue: an interview with Dr. José Maria Bellido

Dr. José Maria Bellido is a researcher of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (Spain) and Professor in the "International Master in Sustainable Fisheries Management" at the University of Alicante (Spain). He is deeply interested in spatial modeling (using spatial stats and GIS tools) and stock assessment, with experience in Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks (ICES and GFCM WGs). He was the Director of the Oceanographic Centre of Murcia (IEO) from 2009 to 2015. Lately, he is more and more involved in discards and by-catch issues.


· What is the discarding issue?
The FAO describes discards as "that proportion of the total organic material of animal origin in the catch, which is thrown away, or dumped at sea for whatever reason. It does not include plant material and post harvest waste such as offal. The discards may be dead or alive" (See the FAO Fisheries Glossary

· What is the economic cost of discarding to the fishing industry?

Discarding unwanted catches has many negative environmental and economic effects, especially as very few fish discarded will actually survive. There are a number of consequences, some of them are the following:

-   Discarding juveniles means lower future catch opportunities and reduced spawning biomass;
-   Discarding mature individuals weakens the stock’s productivity both in the short and the long term;
-   Discarding fish, crustaceans, sea birds, sea mammals and non-targeted species undermines the balance of the marine ecosystem;
-   Some vulnerable species can become severely depleted even in the absence of any directed fishery (e.g. certain sharks and rays);
-   For fishers, discarding is a waste of time and effort in the present, as well as a serious potential loss of future income.

· What measures can be taken to reduce unwanted by-catch and eliminate discards?

The best discards mitigation measure have to occur directly at the sea and will be to not catch unwanted species. Some specific measures and tools to mitigate discards of juveniles and unwanted catches can be:

-   Measures of control of fishing effort;
-   Better fishing selectivity, improvement of the design and use of fishing gear and by-catch mitigation devices;
-   Spatial and/or temporal fishing restrictions and/or closures for vulnerable sizes and/or areas;
-   Limits and/or quotas on by-catch.
-   Self-organization and co-management together with incentives for fishers to comply with measures to manage by-catch and reduce discards.

· The new European Union Common Fisheries Policy plan, proposed for 2014-2020, presents a controversial goal: to enforce the landing of fishing discards as a measure to encourage their reduction.  What would be the socio-economic impact of this upcoming discard ban?

The discard ban will produce important changes on how the fishing sector operates at the sea and this can bring some socio-economic consequences that we don’t know exactly yet. The discard ban and landing obligation should be accompanied by other measures for its successful implementation. Some of these measures are improvements of control of fishing effort, effective enforcement and finally an agreement of the fishing sector to comply the rules and regulations. Additionally, discards should be managed in a fishery-by-fishery basis. Exemptions (minimis) can be an alternative for some selected fisheries, of course based on scientific studies.

· The farewell:

Many thanks for this interview and for your interest in our research in fishery discards and by-catch. The “Discards problem” is a key-point in fisheries. It is not an easy issue, as it involves the hardcore of fishing operations, both from economic, legal and biological point of view. However, there is a common and positive perception from all sides (citizenship, NGOs, fishing sector, policymakers, scientist, etc) that discards are negative for all us. We all should find a better solution.

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