Seafood Summit: The EU Landing Obligation – Impacts and Solutions

Posted on 08 January 2016

The Landing Obligation is one of the most talked about issues in the EU fishing industry at the moment, especially since it came in to force for some of the key white fish species on 1st January this year. So how will things play out over the next three years as the landing obligation comes into effect for all quota managed species by 2019?

As we look ahead to the Seafood Summit in Malta next month, where we have been instrumental in getting the issue on the agenda, we continue to consider what the impact will be on fishing and other seafood businesses, and on the fish stocks.  We are also aiming to help raise awareness of and provide opportunities for vessel operators to evaluate tools or products that can reduce any adverse impacts of fishing under the landing obligation that might arise in the short term.

There are still many unknowns about how the fishing authorities in the UK will manage the phased implementation of the landing obligation. Although there are regional discard plans and guidance notes, there are still questions about what exemptions will be available and what penalties might be applied for accidental catch, for example, and for which fleets and fisheries.

Seafish has undertaken numerous economic impact assessments that examine a number of different scenarios for key segments of the UK fleet. The published reports highlight what could happen, under the landing obligation rules, if 2013 fishing patterns were continued. If there is a requirement to stop fishing after a single quota has been fully caught, then in short, the fleet segments modelled could potentially suffer very substantial losses in revenues.  The purpose of these reports is therefore to draw attention to the challenges that fisheries managers could face and how much fishing patterns and selectivity may need to change in order to avoid this outcome.  The reports also highlight the value of fish that could be left in the sea after fleet segments stopped fishing upon experiencing a choke situation*.

Encouragingly, the UK Government administrations have been using our economic impact assessment reports during recent committee meetings in relation to the issue so hopefully our analyses will inform any future decisions on implementation at a regional level.  Feedback from our fishing industry on the usefulness of our reports has also been encouraging, so we are now planning to update the baseline year on our model and produce further analyses to help inform discussions and decisions about how to approach fishing under the new regime.

Despite the uncertainty, the fishing industry - and especially those working in mixed fisheries - do understand the need to make changes to the way they fish in order to reduce unwanted catch. Investment in gear selectivity technology is something we encourage fishermen to seriously consider and our Gear Technology database offers a wealth of information on what is available, how it works and links to various trials that have taken place over the last 20 or so years.

Seafish will continue to analyse how the landing obligation actually does affect the fishing industry and it is vital that organisations such as ourselves, Government administrations and NGOs work with our industry to continue to discuss and debate the issue and help to identify solutions so we have a viable fishing industry in 2019 and beyond.

 Seafish has organised a panel called 'The EU Landing Obligation - Impacts and Solutions' at the Seafood Summit in St Julians, Malta on 1st February (13.45-1500 GMT + 1).  It will be moderated by Mike Park, Chief Executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA). Panellists include Hazel Curtis, Chief Economist at Seafish, Helen Duggan, Head of Responsible Sourcing at Seafish and Lianne Veitch from Client Earth. Further information can be found on the Seafood Summit website.

* Choke situation -  A situation that can occur in areas where different species of fish swim together in the same habitat (known as mixed fisheries).  If fishermen have fully caught their quota for one species before catching all their allocated quota for another species in the same sea area, then a choke situation has occurred.  In some management regimes this situation can mean that vessels would have to stop fishing in that sea area due to the fact that they cannot guarantee avoiding the species for which they have no quota left while aiming to catch the species for which they still have quota .  In the EU, the rules are not yet clear regarding what must happen regarding fishing vessels who find themselves in this situation.