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Fisheries Discards in the North Sea: Waste of Resources or a Necessary Evil?

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Fisheries discards are often seen as a waste of resources and an impediment to the management of fish stocks. However, many traditional fisheries management measures have effectively encouraged discarding. This controversial dichotomy has recently prompted the European Commission to review its approach to managing discards, particularly in the North Sea, where discard rates are among the highest in the world. The European Commission jointly manages North Sea fisheries with Norway; however, in Norwegian waters, discarding is banned. To assess the effectiveness of this Norwegian policy, this study examined its effect on biologically isolated stocks of cod, haddock, saithe, and herring in the Northeast Arctic. Trends in stock status and economic performance showed that the Norwegian approach in the Northeast Arctic has been more successful than the joint approach in the North Sea. After considering the economics and current status of stocks, it is concluded that a discard ban throughout the North Sea for the above species could also offer substantial benefits. Implementation of this policy would be complicated by the more mixed nature (both politically and biologically) of North Sea fisheries, but the use of real-time area closures, gear modifications, and electronic monitoring systems could help ensure compliance and effectiveness.
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Keywords: Norwegian discard ban; by-catch; common fisheries policy; fisheries management; sustainability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Environment Department,University of York, York, United Kingdom

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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