The final phase of the landing obligation, also known as the ‘discard ban’, comes into force in from 1 January 2019. Government has been working in partnership with industry and other member states to prepare for this, including contributing to EU level discard plans for the North Sea and North West Waters and working on domestic level choke solutions.
The Marine Management Organisation has provided guidance for the fishing industry to help them comply and to manage challenges with quota. Under the full discard ban, fishermen must retain and land all quota species; non-quota species can continue to be discarded as can any fish that may represent a health hazard.
There are also specific optional exemptions to the discard ban for some quota species and these are set out in the regulations. Prohibited species and undersized specimens of non-quota species must be discarded.
There are also a number of specific gear technical requirements being introduced in 2019. These are mandatory for some Irish Sea fisheries from 1 January 2019 and for Celtic Sea fisheries from 1 July 2019. In addition, other optional technical gears can be used if fishermen want to meet exemptions which allow fish to be discarded.
For 2019, the UK Government has worked to ensure sensible, evidence-based exemptions are in place. For example, allowing fish with high survival rates to be discarded. The MMO will continue to apply a fair and proportionate approach to enforcement.
This is the final phase of the discard ban which will bring an end to the practice of throwing dead fish back into the sea. The landing obligation was initially introduced in January 2015 for certain pelagic fisheries.
Fishermen are advised to check the guidance regularly as there may be further changes to the regulations following the December Council. Guidance on the landing obligation can also be found on the European Commission’s website.