draft report landing obligation

A draft report on securing the objectives of the landing obligation has been presented to the European Parliament

Draft report on securing the objectives of the landing obligation under Article 15 of the Common Fisheries Policy (2019/2177(INI))


on securing the objectives of the landingobligation under Article 15 of the Common Fisheries Policy


The European Parliament,

– having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy

– having regard to Regulation (EU) 2019/1241 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on the conservation of fisheries resources and the protection of marine ecosystems through technical measures,

– having regard to the Commission communication of 7 June 2019 on the State of Play of the Common Fisheries Policy and Consultation on the FishingOpportunities  for 2020 (COM(2019)0274),

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– having regard to the reports of the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) evaluating compliance with the landing obligation for the North Sea (2016-2017), North Western Waters (2016-2017) and mackerel in the North Sea and North Western Waters (2015-2017),

– having regard to the plenary reports of the Scientific, Technical and  Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) (PLEN 20-01, 19-01, 18-01 and 17-01),

– having regard to Rule 54 of its Rules of Procedure,

– having regard to the report of the Committee on Fisheries (A9-0000/2020),

  1. whereas discarding is a common fisheries practice of returning unwanted catches to the sea, either dead or alive, owing to undersized individuals, reasons of marketability, lack of quota or catch composition rules;
  2. whereas unwanted catches and discards constitute a substantial waste of natural resources and have an adverse effect on the sustainable exploitation of fish stocks and marine ecosystems and the financial viability of fisheries;
  3. whereas discarding accounts for around 23 % of worldwide catches; whereas the historically high levels of discards in some EU fisheries have posed a serious problem to the long-term sustainability of EU fisheries and undermined the credibility of the Union’s fisheries policy;
  4. whereas the ban on the practice of high grading (discarding of marketable fish), which was introduced in the EU in 2010, has been poorly implemented;
  5. whereas the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), as reformed in 2013, introduced the objective for the Union to gradually eliminate discards by avoiding and reducing unwanted catches as far as possible, and by ensuring that catches are landed;
  6. whereas the landing obligation, which was phased in over a period of four years (2015-2019), makes it mandatory to land and deduct from applicable quotas all catches of regulated species in EU waters, or by EU vessels in international waters, and forbids the use of undersized fish for direct human consumption;
  7. whereas the landing obligation is not a fully comprehensive discard ban as it only applies to regulated species (total allowable catches (TACs) and effort-regulated fisheries for which a minimum size has been defined) and includes exemptions for high survivability and up to 5 % de minimis in cases where selectivity increases are difficult to achieve or where handling unwanted catches entails disproportionate costs;
  8. whereas several third countries and self-governing territories have established discard bans to different extents, including Canada, the Faroe Islands, Norway, Iceland, Chile and New Zealand;
  9. Affirms the EU’s overall objective of ensuring the sustainable exploitation of fish stocks and the protection of marine ecosystems; highlights that reducing discards and minimising unwanted catches is a public policy priority that has been shaped in response to concerns over accountability, conservation and the wasting of natural resources as well as the scientific need to fully account for all sources of fishing mortality;
  10. Acknowledges that the introduction of the landing obligation represents a major change in EU fisheries management – from recording landings to a system that records the entire catch – and has inevitably had a range of short- and long-term ecological and economic impacts;
  11. Highlights the progress made in terms of stakeholder cooperation and the steps taken to improve selectivity; notes, however, that implementation of the landing obligation remains low overall and that discarding is occurring at rates roughly comparable to the years before the landing obligation was introduced;
  12. Notes that the landing obligation has raised concerns in the fishing industry, especially in mixed fisheries exposed to potential choke species cases and early closure of fisheries; welcomes the measures taken to date – quota swaps and quota pools for bycatch species – and insists on the need to further develop effective by-catch reduction plans with the aim of rebuilding vulnerable stocks;
  13. Stresses the potential use of the exceptions (high survivability and de minimis) provided for in the regulation to facilitate implementation and counteract potential choke cases; recalls that reliable and accurate evidence and data needs to be provided and recommends that the process for granting exemptions should be streamlined, including better data collection;
  14. Recalls that the landing obligation is not a goal in itself but a tool to drive improvements in fishing and operational behaviour, incentivise the development and usage of more selective gears to minimise unwanted catches, and improve catch documentation for a better understanding and scientific assessment of fish stocks; recognises that while pursuing this ultimate objective requires time and sufficient knowledge, greater efforts are needed to promote a common understanding of it and to fully utilise the landing obligation as a means to achieve it;
  15. Notes that discard levels vary heavily from fisheries to sea basins, leading to the perception that the ‘one rule fits all’ approach may not be the optimal strategy to encourage fishers to become more selective; calls on the Commission to identify the main shortcomings and to propose adapted and tailor-made solutions for specific fisheries for each sea basin;
  16. Recalls that the current legal framework provides the legal basis for Member States to actively work together to define selective fishing rules in a more flexible manner and to deploy scientifically-proven mitigation tools; calls on the Member States to enhance their cooperation through a regional approach, including the involvement of relevant stakeholders and Advisory Councils, and to make use of the subsidies available to them to this end; reiterates the need to ensure a level playing field in the implementation of the landing obligation;
  17. Welcomes the results from recent scientific studies (e.g. DiscardLess, MINOUW and LIFE iSEAS) on innovative gear selectivity, avoidance strategies and vessel modifications to handle unwanted catches on board;
  18. Stresses that efficient fisheries management systems, including being able to use all elements to properly implement the landing obligation and achieve the objectives of the CFP, need to be supported by accurate and reliable catch documentation and scientific data; calls on the Commission and the Member States to step up efforts to fully implement applicable EU legislation if needed and to take further action to ensure full documentation and data collection;
  19. Is concerned about the lack of proper control over and compliance with the landing obligation and underlines its negative impact on sustainability; calls for better use to be made of new technologies and digital solutions and for cooperation between the fishing sector and the Member State authorities to be strengthened in order to rapidly improve control;
  20. Stresses that while improving selectivity must be a high priority, implementing the landing obligation requires a cross-sectoral approach and clear incentives to be devised to encourage best practice mitigation; recommends the following accompanying measures and management tools:
  21. using quota-based tools: the distribution of quotas in line with the expected catch composition, further use of adjustments through quota swaps with other Member States and the allocation of estimated discard share of quotas for fishers that opt to use more selective gear;
  22. implementing a marine spatial planning approach in order to avoid discards by guiding fishers to areas where undersized fish are less likely to be present;
  1. providing greater flexibility to allow fishers to choose gear solutions, coupled with greater responsibility for documentation (full documentation of catches);
  2. providing flexible mechanisms for the approval of new types of selective gear in order to incentivise stakeholders to apply for and carry out pilot projects;
  3. granting exclusive access to fishing locations or time periods in order to encourage selectivity;
  4. adopting strategies to use unwanted catches other than for human consumption;
  5. developing a plan for unwanted catches and/or regional by-catch plans, involving Member States and the fishing industry and supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund;
  6. using and developing artificial intelligence tools to increase selectivity and control;
  7. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.


Brian J McMullin Solicitors
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