Does banning discards in an otter trawler fishery create incentives for more selective fishing?

Harriet M. Condie, Alastair Grant, Thomas L. Catchpole

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Reforms of the European Union Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) will implement an EU wide ban on discarding phased in from 2015, requiring the landing of unwanted small and unmarketable fish. The Commission argues that this will create strong incentives for more selective fishing practices; however, there is little information to allow us to predict likely changes in fishing behaviour. Using detailed historic observer and logbook data from English North Sea otter trawlers and information on fish prices and landing costs, we examine the potential impact of a discard ban combined with either effort controls or catch quotas on the landings of an average trip. We calculate fishing incomes based on the assumption that existing fishing behaviour and catch compositions are maintained and compare this with incomes calculated on the assumption that all unwanted catch can be avoided. The difference provides an estimate of the maximum possible financial incentive for fishers to adopt more selective fishing practices. The calculations suggest that a discard ban in isolation will generate little economic incentive to operate more selectively. When combined with effort controls, a reduction in fishing effort may result in a proportional reduction in unwanted catches, but an incentive to actively avoid this catch is unlikely to be generated. Catch quotas would generate much stronger economic incentives, but only for the avoidance of the five quota species. So, contrary to the aims of the reformed CFP, a discard ban may not result in a dramatic reduction in unmarketable catches of all species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-146
Number of pages10
JournalFisheries Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013


  • Discards
  • Discard ban
  • Common Fisheries Policy reform
  • Catch quotas
  • Selective fishing

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