A team from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, writing in the academic journal Marine Policy, say fishermen should be given incentives not to return unwanted fish and other marine animals known as 'discards' back into the sea after they are caught in their trawlers' nets.
The study focused on the North Sea, which is bordered by Norway and the European Union countries Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland and the UK. However, there are plenty of other places in the world, such as North America, which have similar problems with discards. The findings of the research are expected to inform European Union policy about discards.
Discards are mainly young or damaged fish or sea life that cannot be sold because there is no market for them, or, if taken back to shore, would exceed the fishers' catch quota.
Almost one million tonnes in weight and many millions of pounds worth of discards including haddock, cod, whiting and flatfish like plaice, sole and dab - are thrown back into the North Sea after they are caught in trawlers' nets every year, and they are usually dead by the time they are returned to the water. This quantity equates to nearly one-third of the total weight of fish brought ashore, and one-tenth of the estimated total of biomass of fish in the North Sea.
For the study, the Newcastle University research team examined the political conditions, management strategies, behavioural attitudes and economic incentives associated with discarding. They analysed a variety of data sources, including industry communications, debate transcripts and scientific and technical texts.
The team, from Newcastle University's School of Marine Science and Technology and the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, estimate that discard
Contact: Professor Chris Frid
University of Newcastle upon Tyne