Press release

Successful trial dramatically reduces ‘discards’

The UK is testing Catch Quota management which counts what is caught rather than what is landed at port.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Fishermen have radically cut the amount of fish they discard following the success of the Government’s ‘Catch Quota’ trials, Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon has announced today.

Last year’s ‘Catch Quota’ trial was introduced to reduce discards of North Sea cod and for sole in the Western Channel and results show that those participating in the trail have been successful in reducing discards of both stocks to just 0.2%. In 2010, the average discard rates were 38% for North Sea cod trawlers and 28% for Western Channel sole beam trawlers.

Commenting on the trials Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said:

“This is a tremendous result and I applaud the contribution which fishermen have made to this success.

“I am very pleased that more fishermen have joined the 2012 catch quota scheme and I believe that we can build on the success of last year. 

“Discards are a product of the broken Common Fisheries Policy and I will continue to press the EU until we eliminate this wasteful practice.

“I want to continue to work with industry to develop innovative solutions, such as the Catch Quota scheme, which reduce unwanted catches and work towards the elimination of discards. In doing so I want to ensure the fishing industry remains viable and profitable.”

The UK is testing Catch Quota management which counts what is caught rather than what is landed at port.  It is a key tool in reducing the wasteful practice of discards while maintaining a profitable fishing industry.

The scheme is being carried out on behalf of Defra by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). James Cross, Chief Executive of the MMO said:

“I’m really proud of our work and the contribution from the fishing industry in helping to develop innovative solutions to challenges facing both fishermen and the marine environment.

“The fantastic results of the trial demonstrate how beneficial it is for us to work together in looking at alternative ways of managing fisheries.

“We look forward to continuing this work in 2012-13 and achieving a more sustainable future for the industry.”

Discards represent a waste of natural resources and one of the Government’s priorities for reforming the broken Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is to ensure the practice is eliminated. The UK Government hopes that a reformed CFP can bring an end to discards and believes the best way to do this is through an approach that addresses the problems which are specific to each fishery. 

Discarding perfectly good fish can happen for many different reasons. For example, when fishermen have hit their quota or when they catch a fish they have no quota for.

The trial has operated on a voluntary basis and fishermen who join the scheme have to account for everything they take out of the sea and land everything they catch, regardless of size, with CCTV used to check that they are sticking to the rules.

Participating fishermen have also drastically reduced discards of undersized fish of all species to between 0 and 3% of their total catch indicating the effectiveness of selectivity methods being used by the participating fishermen.


1. The final results of the catch quota trials for 2011 can be found using the link below.

Updates to this page

Published 10 April 2012