A new study provides a first overview of the implementation and impact of the landing obligation
The landing obligation has been fully in force since 2019 after a phasing-in period from 2015 with the objective to gradually eliminate discards by avoiding and reducing as far as possible unwanted catches by ensuring that all catches are landed. Discarding unwanted catches at sea is a substantial waste of marine biological resources and negatively affects the financial viability of fisheries. The landing obligation encourages fishers to adapt their fishing patterns to avoid a waste of resources.
The study had been commissioned with a view to improving the understanding of the measures put in place to facilitate LO implementation. Moreover, the study aimed to build up knowledge on how these measures contribute to reducing or avoiding unwanted catches by increasing selectivity, and eliminating discards.Drawing on the collaboration and exchanges during the phasing in of the landing obligation (2015 – 2019 and beyond) between Member States, fishers, NGOs, scientists, the European Parliament and the Commission, the study approached around 150 stakeholders operating in the North Sea, Baltic Sea, and western waters.
To quantify and measure the success of the landing obligation, a more analytical approach was required. For this purpose, the contractors of the study developed tools and methods for cleaning filtering and displaying discard information in the STECF Fisheries Dependent Information (FDI) database. This included the creation of an interactive app (ShinyApp) on overall trends in discard patterns.
Effective control and enforcement are essential to the success of the landing obligation. Due to the failure to adopt the necessary means, such as REM, indications point towards widespread non-compliance and prolific, undocumented illegal discarding of catches. This represents a significant risk, as it is vital to maintain and improve the collection and reporting of catch data. If the data reported do not reflect the actual removals, this will significantly impact the quality of scientific advice and may compromise the achievement of the sustainability objectives of the common fisheries policy (CFP). The Commission counts on the co-legislators to take this into account in the ongoing negotiations of the revision of the Control Regulation.
The Commission will use the important findings of this study in further discussions with scientists, the Member States, the Advisory Councils and the European Parliament and in the course of preparing the report on the functioning of the CFP by the end of 2022. The study is providing timely input for this report.
The study is also useful for all the stakeholders involved in the implementation of the landing obligation, such as the Member States and industry, as it shows a comprehensive analysis of the state of play and provides recommendations for improvement.