Statutory guidance

Demersal landing obligation guidance

Updated 17 December 2015

1. Check if you are affected by the new rules

You may be subject to the demersal landing obligation rules on 1st January 2016 if you target certain demersal quota species. Not all demersal fish are immediately affected from this date because the EU is gradually introducing the new rules. The landing obligation requires you to retain all catches of a species, subject to any exemption.

The species you have to land all catches of depends on the sea area you fish in and the gear you use. Find out what rules apply to you and the exemptions you can use.

North Sea (ICES area: IIa and IV)

North Western Waters (ICES areas: VI VII and the union waters of Vb)

You must follow the pelagic landing obligation rules if you target pelagic quota species.

Contact your Producer Organisation (PO) or local Marine Management Organisation (MMO) office if you are unsure of the rules which will apply to you in 2016. They will have a list of vessels affected.

2. Enforcement

The MMO will work with POs and the wider industry to ensure compliance.

We want to make sure that fishermen:

  • understand the new rules as they come in and can easily get the right information
  • know the benefits of fishing selectively and avoiding unwanted catches
  • can benefit from opportunities such as quota uplift

If you break the demersal landing obligation rules in 2016 the MMO will take a proportionate and appropriate approach to enforcement. They will initially respond with information and advice in recognition of the significant change the demersal landing obligation brings.

Current methods of enforcement and surveillance (including inspections at sea) will be used to educate and check compliance.

If action is required it will be in line with the MMO Compliance and Enforcement Strategy.

For enforcement purposes a list of vessels subject to the landing obligation in 2016 will be shared with fellow Member States.

3. Exemptions

You are allowed to discard a species that is subject to the landing obligation in any of the following situations:

  • fish which has been damaged by predators e.g. marine mammals, predatory fish or birds
  • fish damaged by disease or parasites e.g. sea lice
  • contaminated fish which are unfit for human consumption e.g. fish chemically contaminated by oil
  • catches released as part of regular vessel tasks such as cleaning the gear
  • fish offal from the processing of fish onboard your vessel such as the gutting of fish and tailing of Nephrops
  • you might also be able to use a fishery specific exemption: de minimis or high survivability. Check the North Sea and North Western Waters guides to see if you are eligible.

Permitted discards will not count against your quota but must be recorded.

You must continue to discard:

  • prohibited species must be returned to the sea as soon as possible with a minimum of injury to maximise the chance of survival
  • undersize fish of species which are not subject to the landing obligation must be returned to the sea as soon as possible after sorting
  • over quota catches of species which are not subject to the landing obligation

3.1 High-grading

You are breaking the law if you ‘high grade’ your catch. High-grading is the practice of discarding low-value catches of any species that can be legally landed in order to preserve your quota for higher-value fish.

The high grading ban will not apply for species subject to the landing obligation in cases of permitted exemptions.

3.2 Catch composition rules

If your catches are not covered by the landing obligation in 2016 catch composition rules will continue to apply. You must discard catches which exceed catch composition thresholds as soon as possible.

If your catches are subject to the landing obligation, they will be counted as target species for the purposes of catch composition rules. All catches of that species must be landed and counted against quota.

4. Undersize fish

You must land all catches of any species for which you are subject to the landing obligation, including those that are undersize. All catches of the species will count against your quota unless an exemption applies.

To reflect the ‘land all’ approach of the landing obligation the term Minimum Landing Size (MLS) has been replaced by Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS), though the legal sizes of fish remain the same.

You must continue to discard undersize fish of species which are not subject to the landing obligation.

4.1 How to store undersize fish on board your vessel

4.2 Vessels 12m and over

You must store undersize fish separately from fish above MCRS. Undersize fish do not have to be stored separately by individual species. Undersize fish must be stored in identifiable boxes, compartments or containers.

4.3 Vessels under 12m

You do not have to separately store undersize catches from fish above MCRS.

However if you have a log book you are required to estimate and record undersize catches.

4.4 What to do with undersize fish once landed

You are responsible for handling the undersize fish you catch until you pass it to someone else, known as another owner.

You can’t sell undersize fish for direct human consumption. You can sell them into different markets for:

  • non-direct human consumption where the fish is processed in particular ways before re-entering the human food chain (at the moment these uses are food additives, extracts of fish proteins and fish oil for human consumption)
  • non-human consumption where the fish goes to markets where it does not enter the human food chain (these uses include fish meal, pot bait, pet food, and cosmetics)

There will not be one solution or process for handling undersize fish that will work across all areas of England. Different approaches will be needed depending on the fisheries in an area or what facilities are at port or nearby.

Ports, markets and other businesses may want to set up new processes or slightly change existing ones e.g. processors might want to expand their existing collection networks to include additional ports.

Find out more from Seafish about how to handle undersize fish and the markets it can be sent to.

4.5 Rules which apply to handling undersize fish

You must continue to follow food hygiene rules and apply them to undersize fish on board your vessel.

By following food hygiene rules it allows for undersize fish to be sent to a wide range of uses .

When it is decided that undersize fish will go to non-human consumption uses Animal By-Products (ABP) rules will apply.

You need to make sure that ABP fish is put in storage and transport that is ABP approved. Ports, markets and other businesses may want to provide facilities for fishermen that are ABP approved.

5. Record your catches

If you keep a log book or e-log you must record:

  • estimates of all discards above 50kg of live-weight equivalent for any species not subject to the landing obligation
  • estimates of all catches of prohibited species
  • estimates of all permitted discards including: predator damaged, contaminated fish and fishery specific exemptions. Permitted discards will not count against quota.

For good size fish the rules on recording and reporting you fishing activity and sales notes still apply.

5.1 Recording undersize fish

5.2 If you have to complete a logbook

In addition to the existing recording requirements you must record species below MCRS as a separate entry within log books.

The master of the vessel must log, for each fishing trip, all quantities of each species caught and retained on board above 50kg of live-weight equivalent. (However all quantities, regardless of total weight, will need to be recorded accurately in the landing declaration.)

You must log two separate entries if the combined weight of both good size (above minimum size) and undersize fish for one species reach 50kg live weight equivalent.

The entries must list the weight of those of good size separately from the weight of undersize fish. For example if you are obliged to land haddock and have 20kg undersize and 35kg good sized you must record both as a separate entry.

You must record undersize fish as juvenile within e-log systems.

5.3 If you do not have to complete a log book

Your catches of undersize fish will be reported via buyer and sellers sales note.

5.4 Landing Declaration

Paper landing declarations must provide accurate weight per species separately listing undersize and good size fish.

All quantities of landed fish, regardless of total weight, have to be recorded accurately in the landing declaration. All weights of undersize fish have to be recorded.

Electronic landing declarations have yet to be modified to allow records to be designated as ‘undersize’.

Therefore they must record the total weight per species of undersize and good size fish combined.

5.5 Buyers and sellers reporting requirements

You can only sell your undersize fish to a registered buyer. A sales note must be provided for any sale or transfer of undersize fish regardless of the quantity involved. The registered buyer or seller must provide a sales note with:

  • an accurate weight of the total amount of undersize fish by species
  • the catching vessel details

Undersize fish can be transported unsorted by species provided they are separated from fish above minimum size.

The electronic reporting system (ERS) for sales notes has yet to be modified to allow records to be designated as ‘undersize’. In the meantime you must apply the most appropriate disposal code available on the system, for example ‘non-human consumption’ or ‘bait’.

6. Further Information

Seafish website