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DiscardLess – Strategies for the gradual elimination of discards in European fisheries

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - DiscardLess (DiscardLess – Strategies for the gradual elimination of discards in European fisheries)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2018-03-01 al 2019-02-28

European fisheries should operate without discards. This societal objective has been translated in a landing obligation (LO) for commercially exploited stocks in the new EU Common Fisheries Policy, but its implementation is challenging. In the short-term, the LO will have substantial costs for the fisheries. However, on longer time scales, landing discards has the potential to increase profitability by promoting more sustainable fisheries. DiscardLess addresses both the short-term challenges and the potential benefits to support the implementation of the LO. Specifically, DiscardLess works in close cooperation with stakeholders and policy makers to:

A. Assess the impact of discards on the ecosystem, economy and society
B. Investigate the drivers of discarding, and identify how those can be abated
C. Develop user-based innovative tools and strategies to avoid unwanted catches
D. Develop innovative methods and new value chains to handle and use unavoidable unwanted catches
E. Enhance controllability of and compliance with the LO via the development of operational and cost- effective tools for traceability and monitoring
F. Formulate policy guidelines to reduce incentives to discard and promote the adoption of alternative mitigation strategies, and support other maritime policies
G. Integrate the gathered knowledge on discard mitigation strategies and transfer it widely
"DiscardLess is built on 8 WPs gathered in 4 clusters.

CL1: BASELINES AND ASSESSMENTS (WP1: Ecosystem-scale; WP2: Fishery-scale)
work : Literature and data review; Parameterisation of relevant models; Agreement on common indicators, evaluation criteria and scenarios across models and regions; first runs performed and analysed
results: WP1: foodweb effects of the LO beyond seabirds and scavengers may be limited; Ecological benefits are best obtained by limiting fishing mortality. WP2: discarding makes fisheries more cost-efficient. The LO negatively impacts profitability in the short term by increasing costs and decreasing value, and by creating choke species effects. There is strong scepticism on the feasibility and the controllability of the LO. There are though economic benefits in the medium/long term when maintaining total catches at MSY.

CL2: AVOIDING UNWANTED CATCHES (WP3: Gear technology; WP4: Fishing strategies)
work : Collection and analysis of selectivity data; development and field testing of underwater light-emitting technology to enhance escapement behaviour; questionnaires; statistical analysis of fine-scale fisheries and scientific data; ""challenge experiments""
results: WP3: A catalogue of selective devices; increased knowledge on fish swimming and escapement in a trawl; operational technology for underwater lightning; WP4: Fishers have different opinions on which strategy might perform best; Some fishers managed to reduce discards without reducing profit; it is not always possible to predict hot spots

CL3: OPTIMAL USE OF UNWANTED CATCHES (WP5: From deck to first sale; WP6: Products to the value chain)
work : analysis of onboard practices and markets in countries with a history of discard ban; 3D mapping of options on board for standard vessels; new tools for monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS); analysis of logistics needs for some harbours; review of potential products for the value chain; cost-benefits analyses
results: WP5: it took decades to get acceptance of the LO in Iceland and Norway; the LO has created new uses of fish by-products; A number of options already exist to improve storing and handling onboard, but those are mainly applicable to larger vessels; the necessary investment onboard may be paid back within one to two years. WP6 The potential supply of catches previously discarded is likely to be very variable; Only the largest harbours have facilities than can easily be adapted; Harbours and companies are reluctant to invest in discard infrastructures; More than 30 valorisation products have already been identified

CL4: POLICY OUTREACH (WP7: framing and implementing the discard policy; WP8: bringing results to users)
work : Numerous Interviews with stakeholders ; Review of first 12 months of LO in the Baltic and Pelagic fisheries; Live website with updated knowledge; videos; numerous meetings at local, national and EU levels
results: WP7: discard bans require high levels of at-sea MCS, and/or strong incentives to fish more selectively, neither of which usually apply; The LO has a negative impact on scientific knowledge through a reduction in the acceptance of observers onboard; the current governance process is too slow and inflexible; WP8: The project as gained credibility and legitimacy; Most of the knowledge transfer is ensured through participation to diverse forums; The website contains useful dissemination elements.

DiscardLess contributes to the four major expected impacts of the call text.

1. Support the CFP
DiscardLess has progressed well toward this. We evaluated the biological, ecological, economic and social impacts of the LO across a great diversity of regions and fisheries. We gathered knowledge about the perceived solutions that could reduce discards, and we tested their efficiency through field trials and/or simulation models. We reviewed solutions that already exist somewhere, and we discussed whether and how they can be applicable in other fisheries. Also, we tried to quantify prices and costs of all these solutions, for a rapid appraisal of the potential costs and benefits.

2. Contribute to implement the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)
This objective was addressed in WP1. A set of common evaluation criteria were agreed on the basis of the MSFD indicators. Scenarios were run accordingly.

3. Improved acceptance of conservation measures.
Regarding stakeholders, we have been very present in a great variety of discussion forums, workshops etc. We listened to concerns, and we provided quantitative estimates and technical knowledge on alternative paths. Many simulations convey similar results, underlying that in the medium and long-term, fisheries would benefit economically and ecologically from a shift to discard-free fishing, providing higher revenues and lower costs. This positive perspective in the medium term is important to bring forward. DiscardLess scientists contribute to the balancing of facts vs. opinions.
Regarding society, the problems are similar to other issues of waste management and common pool resource. There is great scope for communicating issues and progresses, and to engage in discussion.

4. Increased levels of control and compliance.
The level of enforcement and control of the LO is the greatest unknown, but the perspectives are not very optimistic. All our interviews point toward a massive rejection of the idea of the LO by fishers. There are little expectations that things could develop positively. Nevertheless, pragmatism prevails and local bottom-up initiatives are also emerging. DiscardLess has a great role to play in reversing this negative trend by engaging in discussions with stakeholders, by providing technical support and by telling the good stories.
DiscardLess is also a major partner in terms of MCS technologies, including Remote Electronic Monitoring and genetic tools for traceability. These are not widely used yet, but should the policy-makers opt for these, the DiscardLess partners will be able to provide technical support