Discards are those parts of the catch which are returned to the sea.

Not all fisheries produce discards; some are completely 'clean', while others may even discard more fish than they retain. There are many reasons for discarding, including:

  • Market conditions. Fish may be discarded because they are of no economic value, low economic value, or damaged and therefore of a reduced value.
  • Management regulations. Fish may be discarded because they are below the legal minimum landing size (MLS), restricted by a quota, or non-marketable because of catch composition restrictions.

Both of these sets of conditions can change by the season or fishing area, even within one fishery.

Assessing how much of a problem discarding poses, and to whom, can be complex. There is no doubt that the discarding of fish wastes resources and there is an urgent need to implement measures to reduce the level of discards. To find out more and see what Seafish and the fishing industry is doing to combat discards, view:

Alternatively, you can find more about discards at Defra Marine Scotland or the European Commission.