The main objective of this Concerted Actions was to find a framework within which discards could be reduced in the towed gear fisheries of any given fishing area. Specifically the work aimed to:
- Review the fisheries being prosecuted in Areas V11h and j and VIIIa and b;
- Rview the available information on seasonal catch profiles and discard rates;
- Determine the main biological and commercial aspects of those fisheries;
- Agree national priorities for change through industry liaison groups; and
- Seek consensus on the discard reduction priorities from the fisheries in question through a liaison group of fishermen from all four countries involved.
After this phase of the discussion the group went on to consider the ways in which a research proposal could be framed that would be acceptable to all concerned. The group agreed a number of general points about such a which would cover three main areas over a three year period:
- Development and demonstration of technical measures intended to increase selectivity and reduce discards in appropriate fisheries,
- Economic and biological modelling of the consequences of introducing these measures to the fleet. This would examine the economic effects at boat and fleet level and consider medium and long term predictions,
- Examining a range of other factors, which may affect the feasibility of introducing, improved selectivity. These might include market dynamics, the import of small fish and the potential to devise 'hybrid' packages - for example a combination of new technical measures and quota swap arrangements.
Working up the proposal would require liaison groups to be set up which would bring together each country's fishing industries and researchers. These Groups would be responsible for reviewing the draft research proposals and amending them as necessary before agreeing a final version to be submitted to the Commission.
As for the sea trials that would be used to evaluate the candidate technical measures, it was agreed that they should be carried out with:
- modified standard commercial gear,
- coverage of all fishing seasons,
- provision for independent observers - swapping trials staff,
- regular by-catch/discard sampling of other boats in the fleet,
- scientific rigour and full statistical analyses,
- a representative range of boats, gear types and ground conditions, and
- adequate financial support for the trials vessels.
Regarding the economic aspect of changed selectivity, it was agreed that the study should include:
- building economic models of the operations of representative boats,
- extrapolating boats' economic performance to sub-fleet and fleet levels,
- identifying the short-term losses associated with the introduction of new technical conservation measures,
- identifying and calculating the medium to long term biological benefits for the stocks concerned,
- identifying the realities of market conditions and influences and
- determining the range of economic impacts that would be commercially acceptable to the boats and fleets involved.
In addition to the Liaison Groups discussing gear technology there would need to be fora in which to discuss the econometric and fish stock aspects of the work. Accordingly there would be ad hoc sub-groups set up for these purposes. The economists would generally be drawn from the European Association of Fisheries Economists and the biologists from appropriate ICES Working Groups.
The group also agreed the fisheries where there was the most urgent need to reduce discards. These were: Nephrops (prawn) trawling where there was a by-catch of small finfish with little or no commercial value, general benthic trawling showing high by-catch levels of small megrim, monkfish, sole and ray - all of which were discarded, general demersal trawling with a discarded by-catch of small haddock, and general demersal trawling showing poor size selection for hake.
It was tentatively agreed that the prime responsibility for the above tasks should be: Nephrops trawling - Ireland, general benthic trawling - France, haddock discards - UK, and hake selectivity -Spain.
The concept behind this project was fairly novel. It sought to find ways of forming a partnership between practising fishermen, fishing gear technologists and other researchers. The work programme involved looking at various aspects of the motivation and incentives for fishermen to behave (fish) in certain ways; at the market forces affecting the operational decisions taken by fishing skippers in a given fishing area; and at the management protocols affecting that area. It took advice on the biological (stock) priorities that should inform management policies and tried to match the existing suite of by-catch reduction devices to those biological priorities.
On the ground the work offered ownership of this process and its conclusions to national groups of involved fishermen and then brought those national groups together so that they could start to identify common objectives. The conclusion of the process was the identification of a research programme that could be proposed to the Commission for funding.
When the proposal was being formulated it was recognised that many aspects of the work would need to be handled carefully. A lot of relevant information was known to be commercially sensitive and fishermen may be reluctant to commit themselves to a process with long-term implications. For these reasons much of the early, exploratory work in this contract was not brought into the public domain.
The report on this contract deals mainly with the proceedings of the international workshop that was the culmination of the project. At that meeting the various national delegations discussed, and eventually agreed, how they wanted to take the initiative forward. It became clear at the meeting that the fishing communities of the various partners were both willing and able to act co-operatively. This was demonstrated by the fishermen agreeing to cooperate in a research programme that should lead them towards a future of more sustainable and profitable fishing.
A workshop took place at the end of March 1998 in the UK. It was attended by fishermen, vessel owners, biologists and technologists from each of the partner nations and a fisheries economist. It involved presentations by each of the sectoral groups. The information presented covered the industry views of the state of their fisheries as well as available data on discarding practices and the technical measures that could be used to reduce them.
Funding SchemeCON - Coordination of research actions
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