Spatial distribution of discards in mixed fisheries: species trade-offs, potential spatial avoidance and national contrasts
Since 2015, the European Union gradually implemented the landing obligation (LO). This prohibits at-sea discarding of species under total allowable catch management. Spatiotemporal avoidance strategies and increasing fishing gear selectivity are two complementary levers that could help fishers in reducing the amount of discards. The objective of this paper is to analyse discarding practices of demersal mixed fisheries in the central part of the Celtic Sea to inform on potential spatial avoidance strategies of unwanted catches in a multi-species context. This study provides the first international and fine scale discard maps based on combined observer at-sea data from Ireland, France and the UK, the main countries fishing in the area. Using a suite of multivariate analyses, we identified areas with similar discard profiles, accounting for the multi-species nature of the fisheries. The maps were also derived separately for the three countries to examine national versus general patterns. Strong spatial segregation in effort between the countries, combined with nationally distinct quotas constraints, fisheries targets and market preferences, resulted in limited differences in the species composition of discards, but considerable differences in spatial discard patterns between countries. In theory, the maps based on discards below and above the minimum conservation reference size could inform fishers on areas to avoid but in practice, the spatial ubiquity of some species involved and strong technical interactions between fishing gears limit the possibility of avoiding discards. Some species trade-offs could be identified that might help to minimize adverse impacts of the implementation of the LO.
KeywordsFisheries management Landing obligation Discards Mixed fisheries Celtic Sea
This work has been funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement DiscardLess No. 633680.
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