The Landing Obligation (The Discards Ban)

For demersal quota species, the landing obligation will come into force in phases from 1 January 2016.

Seafish has produced an easy-to-understand guide called The Landing Obligation Made Simple which outlines the changes.

With full implementation expected by 1 January 2019. The rules of the landing obligation are complex, and vary  for each sea area, creating various challenges for its implementation, but also opportunities for those in the industry to shape the policy moving forward. 

Seafish has gathered together a range of information, analyses and case studies, into a 'resource centre' that will help people in the UK fleet and onshore sector to navigate the different facets of the landing obligation.

Here we present some  essential information, background and context to the implementation of the landing obligation.  More detailed information can be found in the links provided.

To read Seafish's The Landing Obligation Made Simple, click here.

Background Information

Seafish has produced a series of information guides that explain what is meant by the landing obligation, the legislative framework surrounding it, and the issues it raises for the seafood industry. These guides provide a good starting point to help you understand the complexities of this regulatory change.

Our website contains a range of information that can be accessed here but we have chosen to highlight some specific information below which will help answer some of the most frequently asked questions from industry.

Where can I find an overview of the landing obligation?

Seafish has produced a general guide to the landing obligation which can be found here.

Seafish has also produced a guide to the pelagic landing obligation which can be found here.

Key information on the landing obligation and all the guidance that has been published by the Devolved Administrations can be accessed through the Seafish website here.

There are also specific pages on:

Pelagic landing obligation
Demersal landing obligation
Onshore implications

What is the proposed implementation timeline?

The Environmental Defense Fund has produced this infographic of the implementation timeline as part of their leaflet on ' How to reduce discards in the EU and meet the landing obligation

Landings Ob

Infographic provided by the Environmental Defense Fund

What species are included in the landings obligation?

When the landing obligation is fully implemented from 2019, skippers will be obliged to land all commercial quota species they catch.

The first stage of this was introduced from 1 January 2015, when the pelagic and industrial fisheries fell under the landing obligation.

The demersal landing obligation will be introduced in fisheries of interest to the UK fleet from 1 January 2016. It will  impact all fisheries covered by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) by 2019. Because the regulation relates to "fisheries" rather than species, this means that during the transition phase (2016 to 2018) there will be some species that can be discarded by some vessels but not by others, in the same sea area.  Member States that were members of the relevant Advisory Committees drew up Discard Plans for which species will need to be landed by which vessels in the North Sea, Celtic Sea and North West Waters in 2016.

The Devolved Administrations in the UK have all published guidance on what is included and when. These can all be accessed through the Seafish website here.

What happens if undersize fish that would previously have been discarded are caught?

Fish below the Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS) must still be landed if the species and fishery is subject to the landing obligation.

However the reformed CFP specifies that undersize fish caught cannot go to direct human consumption  but can go to indirect human consumption or non-human consumption uses.

Each of the Devolved Administrations has produced guidance to explain the requirements concerning the catching, landing, storage, marketing and transportation of catches of species subject which are below the MCRS. This will be particularly relevant for fishing vessel operators, ports and harbours, fish markets, processors, enforcement authorities and other businesses that handle and manage fish in accordance with food hygiene and/or animal by-products (ABP) legislation.

The Devolved Administration guidance can all be accessed through the Seafish website here.

What steps can be taken to avoid catching undersize fish?

Several trials have been undertaken by various authorities in order to study how best to avoid catching certain species or small sized fish.  Successful methods for reducing unwanted catches involve the use of different gear, fishing in different areas, fishing at different times, and using a combination of fisheries management techniques.

You can find some general information on these initiatives here

There is also information on Catch Quota Trials.  These initiatives have been taking place over the last few years, mostly with cod. Catch Quota Trials used on-board video cameras (CCTV), coupled with the use of more selective gears and avoidance tactics. Under the trials all caught fish of the relevant species were recorded, counted against quota and had to be retained on board and landed. Fishermen had to document and account for everyfish caught. There are specific case studies on how thesetrials have been conducted with a Scottish skipper and a South West England Fleet Manager. See

Gear Adaptation Technology is also a proven method for reducing catches of unwanted fish. Seafish has developed its own gear database to help the UK fishing fleet understand how adapting their gear could help them fish successfully under the terms of the landing obligation.  This information is available here

Seafish has also published in hard copy our Guide to Basic Fishing Methods that compliments our online version of the database.

Seafish has developed Best Practice Guidance to make it easier for those involved in fishing gear trials to compare the cost and revenue of using old versus new gear and to provide a standardised approach to assess and report the financial effectiveness of experimental gear.
Further information on other management measures that could be undertaken is available here.

How do I give my feedback on the implementation of the landing obligation?

Implementing such a complicated piece of policy is difficult, which is why the decision makers want to get as much constructive feedback as possible from those involved throughout the implementation stage.

At this stage we would suggest contacting your PO or relevant authority as a first port of call.

What are the likely economic impacts of the landing obligation?

Seafish has undertaken numerous economic impact assessments that examine a number of different scenarios for the UK fleet
The published reports highlight what could happen, under  the landing obligation rules, if current fishing patterns do not change. If rules are obeyed in seas where there is a requirement to stop fishing, after a single quota has been fully caught, then in short, the fleet segments modelled would potentially suffer very substantial losses in revenues .  The purpose of these reports is therefore to draw attention to how much fishing patterns and selectivity will need to change in order to avoid this outcome.  the reports also highlight the value of fish that would be left in the sea after fleet segments stopped fishing upon experiencing a *choke situation.

These reports can all be found here.

How can I keep informed of developments moving forward?

Our industry-wide Discard Action Group has been working on this issue over a number of years.  In that time it has heard from many law makers and industry experts and has commissioned a number of studies in order to help industry both interpret and implement the landing obligation.  You can find all the information from that group, as well as sign up to our industry newsletter  here.

Additional information

The Seafish website provides a range of additional information including media commentary, International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) information and other updates that may be useful for further background information.  These can be found here.

Finally, for a synopsis of Seafish activities concerning the landing obligation, see:

* 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.