Statutory guidance

Pelagic landing obligation 2016

Updated 31 January 2017

1. Check if you are affected by the new rules

If you target pelagic species subject to quota with pelagic gear then:

  • the landing obligation will apply to all catch quota species from 2015

If you target pelagic species not subject to quota with pelagic gear then:

  • the landing obligation will not apply to you in 2015
  • any landings of quota species will be counted against quota
  • you must follow the current rules

If you don’t target pelagic species with pelagic gear:

  • the landing obligation will not apply to you in 2015
  • you must follow the current rules

2. Fish affected by the landing obligation

Small Pelagic Large Pelagic Industrial
Mackerel Bluefin tuna Capelin*1
Herring Swordfish Sandeel*3
Horse mackerel Albacore tuna Norwegian pout*3
Blue whiting Bigeye tuna  
Boarfish Blue marlin  
Anchovy*1 White marlin  
Argentine (greater silver smelt)    
Pilchard*1    
Sprat*2    

*1 Anchovy, pilchards and caplin are not subject to quota limits in North Western Waters (ICES areas Vb, VI and VII) or the North Sea (ICES area IIIa and IV).

*2 Sprats are only subject to quota in the North Sea (ICES Area IV) and in ICES Areas VIId and VIIe within North Western Waters.

*3 Sandeels and Norwegian pout are only subject to quota in the North Sea (ICES area IIIa and IV).

If you are not sure if the species you are catching is subject to quota in the area you are fishing full details can be found at 2015 Total Allowable Catches (TACS) and quotas.

3. Fish which must be landed

  • all pelagic quota species caught during pelagic operations targeting pelagic quota species
  • catch of demersal quota species caught during operations for pelagic quota species

4. Fish which must be discarded

  • prohibited species must be discarded. These are listed in Article 12 of 2015 TACS and quotas (does not include 0 Total Allowable Catch (TAC) species)
  • fish that has been damaged by predators such as seals, predatory fish or birds
  • Non-quota species that are in excess of permitted percentages
  • Non-quota species that are below MCRS

5. Fish you can choose to land or discard

  • any species caught during demersal operations subject to current technical provisions
  • catch of non-quota pelagic species caught during any pelagic operations
  • catch of non-quota demersal species caught during any pelagic operations
  • catch of any quota species caught during pelagic operations for non-quota species
  • fish used as live bait

Any discards that are above 50 kg and are of non-quota species should be estimated and recorded in logbooks.

6. Exemptions

Discard plans list fisheries which have justifiable exemptions to the landing obligations. An example is a species may have a high survival rate when caught using a particular gear.

The discard plans outline specific details for set International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) areas. There are two plans which will affect UK pelagic fisheries; the North Western waters (ICES areas Vb, VI and VII) and the North Sea (ICES areas IIIa and IV).

The annex within each discard plan also lists the pelagic gears with the pelagic species targeted by that gear type. There are two types of exemption:

  • survivability exemption - for species where there is a high chance of survivability when released under certain conditions
  • minimal (de minimis) exemption - to allow low levels of discards of unavoidable by-catch

The remainder of this section covers exemptions in the North Western Waters and North Sea Discard plans. The exemptions can be viewed at Discarding and the landing obligation.

7. North Western Waters discard plan

7.1 Survivability exemption

There is a landing obligation exemption for herring and mackerel in area VI purse seine fisheries.

You must adhere to the following conditions:

  • the purse seine gear must be fitted with a visible buoy clearly marking the limit for point of retrieval
  • the vessel and the purse seine gear must be equipped with an electronic recording and documenting system which records when, where and the extent to which the purse seine has been hauled for all fishing operations
  • the catch must be released before a certain percentage of the purse seine is closed or the point of retrieval:
    • the point of retrieval is 80% closed for mackerel and 90% closed for herring
    • for schools which are a mixture of both species the point of retrieval is 80%
  • after the point of retrieval it is prohibited to release the catch of herring and mackerel
  • the surrounded school of fish must be sampled before release to estimate the species composition, fish size composition and the quantity
  • quantities of fish released and results of the sampling must be reported in the logbook

7.2 Minimal (de minimis) exemptions

The following exemptions apply to:

  • industrial pelagic trawlers targeting blue whiting in areas Vb, VI and VII and then processing it for surimi base can discard a maximum of 7% in 2015 and 2016 and 6% in 2017 of total annual catches
  • vessels targeting albacore tuna using midwater pair trawls (PTM) in area VII can discard a maximum of 7% of total allowable catch in 2015 and 2016 and 6% in 2017 of albacore tuna
  • vessels less than 25 metres in length using mid-water trawls (OTM) in VIId targeting mackerel, horse mackerel and herring can discard a maximum of 3% in 2015 and 2% in 2016 of the total annual catches of mackerel, horse mackerel, herring and whiting
  • freezer trawlers using mid-water trawls (OTM) in VI and VII targeting horse mackerel can discard a maximum of 1% in 2015 and 0.75% in 2016 of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of boarfish

8. North Sea discards plan

8.1 Survivability exemption

There is a landing obligation exemption for herring and mackerel in area IIIa and IV (North Sea) purse seine fisheries.

You must adhere to the following conditions:

  • the purse seine gear must be fitted with a visible buoy clearly marking the limit for point of retrieval
  • the vessel and the purse seine gear must be equipped with an electronic recording and documenting system which records when, where and the extent to which the purse seine has been hauled for all fishing operations
  • the catch must be released before a certain percentage of the purse seine is closed or the point of retrieval.:
    • the point of retrieval is 80% closed for mackerel and 90% closed for herring
    • for schools which are a mixture of both species the point of retrieval is 80%
  • after the point of retrieval it is prohibited to release the catch of herring and mackerel
  • the surrounded school of fish must be sampled before release to estimate the species composition, fish size composition and the quantity.
  • quantities of fish released and results of the sampling must be reported in the logbook

8.2 Minimal (de minimis) exemptions

The following exemptions apply to:

  • vessels less than 25 metres using mid-water trawls (OTM) in IVb and c south of 54 degrees north, targeting mackerel, horse mackerel and herring can discard a maximum of 3% in 2015 and 2% in 2016 of the total annual catches of mackerel, horse mackerel, herring and whiting.

9. Quota management

Quota management for pelagic fisheries will remain broadly according to current quota management rules. However, the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) regulation provides some new flexible arrangements to support the introduction of the landing obligation.

9.1 Sourcing quota

In all scenarios, the vessel owner is responsible for ensuring they can cover the associated quota amount for each landing of a quota species:

  • if the vessel is a member of a Producer Organisation (PO) then the PO must source the relevant quota amount.
  • if the vessel is a member of the English non-sector or under ten metre pools then they can use the current species catch limit, quota leasing or a combination of the two

9.2 Quota penalties

If a Producer Organisation (PO) is not able to balance its quota at the end of the year, and ends up with an overfish, the usual penalties and compensation arrangements set out in section 7 of the UK quota management rules will apply.

If individual vessels not in a PO land catch in excess of the applicable catch limit and any leased amount, they may be subject to penalties in line with the current MMO Compliance and Enforcement Strategy.

10. Minimum conservation reference sizes (MCRS)

Catches of all quota species (including target and by-catch species) below the minimum conservation reference size (previously Minimum Landing Size) must also be retained onboard, landed and counted against quota. Subject to the derogation detailed below, species below the MCRS will have to be stored and recorded separately from fish over the minimum size. They do not have to be stored by individual species.

However undersize fish do not have to be stored separately from fish above MCRS where:

  • catches contain more that 80% of one or more small pelagic or industrial species
  • fishing vessels are of less than 12 metres length and where catches below MCRS have been sorted, estimated and recorded

Current technical conservation measures to unsorted catches are still applicable where they are compatible with the landing obligation requirements. These include those specified in Article 19 of Council Regulation (EC) No 850/98.

However up to 10% of a total pelagic catch can be comprised of undersize fish and can be subsequently sold for human consumption. This applies to sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel and horse mackerel.

You can profit from the selling of fish below the minimum size. With the exception of the catches subject to the exemptions above, once onshore, fish below the minimum size cannot be sold for direct human consumption. Non-human consumption markets include:

  • fish meal
  • fish oil
  • bait
  • pet food
  • food additives
  • pharmaceuticals
  • cosmetics

Catches will be subject to specific regulations depending on the market they enter.

11. Recording and monitoring

11.1 Over 24 metre vessels

The supply of logbook data is still a requirement under EU legislation. The data supplied will be the same as both catches and discards are already recorded. Any amendments to the Technical Conservation Measures must be followed.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is currently conducting trials in the use of Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) as one of a range of methods of monitoring the landing obligation. REM with CCTV is used to record fish catching and processing operations on board. The methods deployed to monitor the landing obligation will be decided upon on a risk based approach and may include the mandatory fitting and running of such systems. If affected vessel operators will be provided with further information on monitoring requirements.

11.2 10 – 24 metre vessels

The supply of logbook data is still a requirement under EU legislation. The data supplied will be the same as both catches and discards are already recorded. Any amendments to the Technical Conservation Measures must be followed. Monitoring may include REM, observers, inspection at sea and reference fleet sampling. If you are to be affected by any of these methods you will be contacted and provided with additional detail.

11.3 Under 10 metre vessels

There is no overarching EU statutory obligation for vessels under 10m in length to complete a fishing logbook. Fishing activity is managed by the MMO through catch limits (upper limits on fishing activity) and data generated from sales notes. Under the pelagic landing obligation this will remain unchanged to avoid unnecessary burdens on this section of the pelagic fleet.

Monitoring may include REM, observers, inspection at sea and reference fleet sampling. If you are to be affected by any of these methods you will be contacted and provided with additional detail.

11.4 Producer Organisations

Producer Organisations must continue with their current reporting requirements to the MMO, to allow the UK to fulfil our reporting requirements under EU law. Under the pelagic landing obligation POs may be required to provide additional information on the utilisation of specific flexibilities and exemptions. Further guidance will be made available to quota managers and POs in 2015.

12. Enforcement

The MMO will work with the industry to ensure compliance with the new landing obligation. Any action taken will be in line with the MMO Compliance and Enforcement Strategy.

Non-compliance will continue to be dealt with using:

  • verbal rebriefs
  • written rebriefs
  • official written warnings
  • financial administrative penalties
  • prosecutions
  • points on licence

Relevant sectors of the fleet which are to be subject to specific monitoring programs will be advised in advance and provided with detailed guidance on how these will operate. Any enforcement action will be in line with the Regulators Code.

13. Penalties

The MMO takes a proportionate approach to enforcement. For a transitional period it will consider responding with information and education for those who break the law.

However, you could be penalised by a court if you:

  • discard any fish that you should have landed
  • sell fish for human consumption when it should have gone for non-human consumption

The court can fine you an unlimited amount and the value of the catch. The fish and the equipment it was caught with could also be confiscated. As an alternative, the MMO could agree to fine you up to £10,000 instead of taking you to court, depending on the seriousness of the offence.

Infringement of the landing obligation is categorised as serious – however classification of discarding offences as serious will be delayed until 2017. Offences will still be enforced during this transitional two year period.

14. Fishing licences

Fishing vessels that are registered in the UK are not allowed to fish without a valid licence and the conditions of the licence must be adhered to. Some conditions in the licence may contradict the landing obligation. Amendments are being made to licences to ensure they match the reform and vessel owners will be informed of these amendments.

15. Further information

Check the European Commission’s information on the pelagic landing obligation.