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MINOUW Report Summary

Project ID: 634495
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MINOUW (Science, Technology, and Society Initiative to minimize Unwanted Catches in European Fisheries)

Reporting period: 2015-03-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Sustainable fisheries are a key aspect of the rational exploitation of European marine natural resources. Among the regulations enshrined in the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (EU Reg. 1380/2013), article 15 established the progressive obligation to land all catches of regulated species in different phases in the period 2015-2019 (“Landing Obligation”). The MINOUW project (“Science, technology and society initiative to minimize unwanted catches in European fisheries”) is a Research and Innovation Action of the H2020 programme addressing the complexity of the problem of implementing the Landing Obligation from the scientific, technical, economic and societal perspectives. The strategy followed is based on a multi-actor approach, whereby scientists, fisheries technologists, fish producers and NGOs (as representatives of civil society) work collaboratively to provide the scientific and technical basis to achieve the gradual elimination of discards in European marine fisheries. The project’s overall objective is the minimization of unwanted catches by incentivising the adoption of fishing technologies and practices that reduce pre-harvest mortality and post-harvest discards, while avoiding damage to sensitive marine species and habitats.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The general approach was based on technical/technological and socioeconomic solutions on a case-by-case analysis of the main types of southern European fisheries. The project made a review of existing knowledge of the production of unwanted catches and discarding practices in the case study fisheries. The review showed that catches of unwanted fractions of target fisheries species or by-catch can be large in demersal fisheries, particularly those using bottom trawl, but the magnitude of the problem of unwanted catches varies according to season of the year, depth and specific fishery practiced. In periods of high abundance of recruits, bottom trawling on fish nursery areas can generate large amounts of unwanted catches, that are usually discarded for legal reasons (undersize specimens, or catches over quota). The project mapped the areas of high potential unwanted catches for the main species that suffer high discard rates in southern European waters, such as hake, red mullet, mackerels or horse mackerels.

Demonstrated high survival of discards can be used to justify an exemption to the Landings Obligation for specific regulated species.

The project analyzed existing and potential discard-mitigating innovative technologies in workshop roundtables with participation of fishers, technologists and scientists. Participants in the workshops identified and prioritized potential field interventions that are being tested in field trials to experimentally assess their efficiency. The principal conclusions were:
• Visual stimuli using artificial light is a cross-cutting topic in many investigations;
• there is scope to implement similar protocols and data collection procedures for many of the MINOUW case studies, particularly ones operating with similar gear types (trawl; gillnet; purse seine; small-scale fixed gears);
• further tests of classical by catch reduction devices with new designs (viz. sorting grids) or new cod-end meshes (T90) are still necessary in bottom trawl fisheries;
• the pre-catch identification method based on Deep Vision, developed in Norway, should be tested in south European waters;
• post-catch release techniques in encircling nets (purse seine and beach seine) and their bearing on survival of released specimens should be investigated in realistic commercial fishing operations;
• the results of the field work should be available by mid-2017 and it should be possible to include the results of the project’s field interventions in some of the capacity building work planned for years 3 and 4 of the project.

Most of these field interventions will be finalized by mid 2017 and the results will be analyzed in terms of technological advances, marketability and cost-benefit analysis, by scientists, technologists and industry.
A review of European-level and international policies on fisheries was carried out to provide policy recommendations that allow implementing the Landings Obligation taking into account consistency with the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy. Attention has been given also to national and local management plans with particular reference to discard management plans. The development of fisheries management in Iceland and Norway in order to reduce incentives for discarding has been incorporated in the review, as experiences that can be useful for the implementation of the Landings Obligation in Europe.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The fishers’ perception to the problems of unwanted catches, discards and the landings obligation has been defined through analysis of interviews with industry. The replies show that the Landings Obligation faces important structural and logistic challenges for implementation in southern European waters, due to the lack of incentives for compliance, lack of infrastructure to handle and process the unwanted catches brought to land, and perceived lack of interest from the processing industry. The fisheries administrations should work with the fishing industry to find solutions for the handling and utilization of unwanted catches brought to land.
The Multi-actor approach have important societal implications considering, for example, the opportunity to characterize the problem and propose solutions agreed by all stakeholders. The multi-actor approach was based on a methodology of stakeholder consultation using elements of participatory research and fisheries co-management. The process has three phases: i) characterization of the problem and identification of field actions; ii) testing solutions in the field; and iii) assessing the performance of the solutions. In this context the opportunity to discuss about socio-economic impact of discards mitigation measures as well as the future possibility to propose and implement “fishery management plans” (following the regionalization dimension of the CFP) represents a unique laboratory experiment for the future co-management of marine resource.
The results of the research by the MINOUW Consortium has led to four innovations that may lead to launching into the market: modifications to the Deep Vision (awarded Nor-Fishing Innovation Award), modified trawl sorting grids, modifications to fishing pots with lights to increase catchability of cod, and a mobile device application to assist fishers in self-reporting and full documentation of catches. A new process related to the “early slipping” in purse seines has also been developed. The results related to the spatial distribution of fishing effort and potential distribution of unwanted catches are of immediate application in fisheries management to define areas restricted (temporally or permanently) to fishing. The estimates of survival produced can contribute to draft exemptions to the Landing Obligation in national fisheries discards management plans.

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