Fisheries discard ban: Commission adopts plan for North Sea

This discard plan concerns demersal fisheries, i.e. fish that feed on or near the sea bottom, and is a temporary measure to phase out discarding and gradually put in place the landing obligation, a key component of the EU's reformed Common Fisheries Policy. It follows similar plans for demersal species in the Atlantic earlier this month.

Discarding constitutes a substantial waste of resources that threatens the sustainable exploitation and economic viability of fisheries. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimates that over 7 million tonnes - 8 % of the total global fish catches - are discarded yearly.

The discard plan adopted now determines which demersal fisheries in the North Sea will be subject to the landing obligation, while also setting out certain exemptions. The first group of exemptions, so-called de minimis exemptions, allows discarding a small percentage of catches in fisheries where increasing the selectivity is difficult or where handling costs are disproportionately high. The second, so-called survivability exemption allows discarding species that have a high chance of surviving.

All exemptions have been set taking into account available scientific advice and following discussions with scientific advisory body STECF. Certain exemptions will be reassessed in 2016 taking into account additional supporting information from Member States.

The discard plans will apply from 1 January 2016 for one year, once final adoption takes place. Other discard plans will have to be adopted for 2017 to bring additional fisheries under the landing obligation.

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