The European Unions Common Fisheries Policy has undergone many reforms since its creation. Last year saw the introduction of first phases of one of the most significant reforms the Landing Obligation. Under this new rule (with a few exceptions) all catches of species that are managed with a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and quotas will have to be landed. In other words, all catch will go against quota.
Under the old rules, when quota for a particular species was reached, as would occur where a species with a low quota was a component of a mixed-stock fishery or indeed in a fishery with high levels of bycatch, any further catch of that species was simply thrown away. Fishing operations would continue until the quota for all species was fulfilled. Now discarding is effectively banned, once quota for one species is hit, fishers could be forced to discontinue operations or risk exceeding quota limits - even though they may still have unused quota for other species.
The methods for dealing with these “choke species” has largely been left down to individual fisheries to decide. Certainly the landing obligation presents a complex issue. With concern surrounding the socio-economic ramifications on fishers and fishing communities throughout Europe, avoiding choke species is high up on the agenda.
This article was written for (and appears in full on) The Fish Site.