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Fishing Catches

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 9th May 2007.

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Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his estimate is of the amount of fish discarded in UK waters in each month since January 2006 by (a) UK vessels and (b) non-UK vessels; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare)

The information is as follows:

(a) It is not possible to provide figures for discards solely in UK waters. The discard estimates used by ICES in stock assessments are carried out in relation to particular sea areas (e.g. the North Sea) rather than national waters.

Since 2002 all EU countries have been required to collect data on discarding under Council Regulation 1543/2000, but the information is not yet compiled systematically. Quantities of discards are estimated quarterly using data collected by scientific observers aboard commercial fishing vessels. They are required to record the quantity landed and discarded, and the species and size composition of the discards each time the fishing gear is hauled. Deploying scientific observers in this manner is expensive and time consuming, with the result that it is usually only possible to sample a small proportion of the overall fishing trips in a given area. As a result it is necessary to extrapolate from the limited sampling to provide estimates for the entire fleet. Although the sampling is intended to cover a representative sample of the fleet, this does mean that the estimates of total discards are subject to uncertainty.

Quarterly figures for discards of some important commercial species in 2006 are given in the following table. The table also includes estimates of landings and discard rates by the same fleet segments in order to provide an indication of the relative importance of discarding in each case. The figures given are as follows:

Country Area Species Type Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
English and Welsh registered vessels North Sea ICES sub-area IV Cod L 240.4 214.9 406.4 323.8
D 20.5 65.4 243.1 252.2
DR (%) 7.9 23.3 37.4 43.8
Haddock L 68.2 50.6 75.7 107.0
D 23.8 35.3 148.5 102.6
DR (%) 25.8 41.1 66.2 48.9
Plaice L 1,390.0 1,432.5 2,119.7 1,425.0
D 17.9 4.9 290.9 37.1
DR (%) 1.3 0.3 12.1 2.5
Sole L 141.6 48.9 35.7 99.9
D 0.1 29.4 0.0 7.6
DR (%) 0.1 37.5 0.0 7.1
Whiting L 668.8 538.2 831.9 369.0
D 260.4 54.7 334.9 735.3
DR (%) 28.0 9.2 28.7 66.6
Scottish registered vessels North Sea ICES sub-area IV Cod L 1,505.8 1,918.8 2,003.0 1,136.1
D 262.1 587.3 331.1 489.1
DR (%) 14.8 23.4 14.2 30.1
Haddock L 9,744.0 4,792.0 9,882.0 7,081.8
D 2,669.2 3,503.2 5,262.9 3,234.1
DR (%) 21.5 42.2 34.8 31.4
Saithe L 2,671.6 2,769.1 1,579.1 712.8
D 1,366.1 955.6 2,648.9 752.1
DR (%) 33.8 25.7 62.7 51.3
Whiting L 2,189.9 1,891.6 1,843.0 2,017.1
D 1,122.1 933.4 1,114.2 1,287.1
DR (%) 33.9 33.0 37.7 39.0
Scottish registered vessels West of Scotland ICES Division VIa Cod L 70.2 100.6 93.6 43.3
D 19.9 32.8 214.1 53.8
DR (%) 22.1 24.6 69.6 55.4
Haddock L 1,150.7 1,938.4 1,218.0 596.2
D 680.9 1,205.2 1,961.6 605.5
DR (%) 37.2 38.3 61.7 50.4
Saithe L 603.3 648.6 399.8 706.9
D 233.2 755.7 302.3 407.0
DR (%) 27.9 53.8 43.1 36.5
Whiting L 35.0 42.9 48.6 50.9
D 99.4 104.0 246.3 197.8
DR (%) 73.9 70.8 83.5 79.5

L: Estimated landings (tonnes)

D: Estimated discards (tonnes)

DR: Discard rate, i.e. percentage of total catch in weight that is discarded.

There are a number of reasons for these discards. The mixed nature of most fisheries in EU waters means that fish of these and other species often swim together with others which fishermen have no interest in (for example because there is no market for the fish or they have no relevant quota allocation), all of which may be caught at the same time. Discards also arise from the catching of juvenile or undersized fish. In order to avoid this happening and those fish that are not required having to be discarded, UK Fisheries Departments are funding a range of work, in collaboration with the industry, looking at making the respective fishing activity more selective in terms of either species or size. The industry will be encouraged to use any such gear modifications which prove successful. The EU Commission has also made clear in its recent publication on discards that it attaches high priority to tackling this issue throughout EU waters.

(b) Discard estimates from other EU countries are not yet available for 2006, but these should appear later in the year. The UK is continuing to press the Commission to ensure all member states provide full sets of the relevant data. In the longer term, there are plans to develop a "Discards Atlas"—a compendium of available information from member states on discards—as a resource for fisheries science.

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