Original publication: November 2018
Authors: University of Alicante: Jose Luis Sánchez Lizaso, Ivan Sola, Francisco González Carrión
Spanish Institut of Oceanography : Jose María Bellido, Elena Guijarro García
University of Barcelona: Ramón Franquesa
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2QDA0JW
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PECH workshop on 22 November 2018 from 9:00 to 10h30: Discard ban, landing obligation and MSY in the Western Mediterranean Sea

Further reading: Discard ban, landing obligation and MSY in the Western Mediterranean Sea – the Italian case

Discard ban, landing obligation and MSY in the Western Mediterranean Sea - the Spanish case

Download the Study

The reform of European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) sets the stage for fishery managers and stakeholders to take the initiative and responsibility to complement and implement plans for managing fisheries within their region. To facilitate management by those parties relevant knowledge needs to be developed, assessed and deployed in a regional context.

The final objective is to implement the discard plans and multiannual plans, ensuring that fish populations are harvested at levels which can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) taking into account the marine ecosystems. This is an outstanding scientific topic still under discussion by the scientific community but at the same time, there is the need to identify the different scenarios and practical options and steps to be considered.

In 2015, the Mediterranean and Black Sea (FAO Fishing Area 37) had the highest percentage of unsustainable stocks among the 16 major world statistical areas (FAO 2018). The Malta declaration Medfish4ever signed by Mediterranean ministerial representatives from both northern and southern coastlines in 2017 indicates that no later than 2020 and to the fullest possible extent, 100% of the key fisheries have to be managed with multi-annual management plans in order to restore and maintain the populations of fish stocks above fishing mortalities levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield.

The European Commission has just proposed a multi-annual plan for demersal fish stocks in the western Mediterranean Sea and presented it to the Committee of Fisheries on 21 March 2018. The multi-annual plan is the fourth proposal adopted in line with the CFP. It covers the western Mediterranean Sea waters, which extend along the Northern Alboran Sea, the Gulf of Lion and the Tyrrhenian Sea, covering the Balearic archipelago and the islands of Corsica and Sardinia and concerns mainly France, Italy and Spain. It includes fish stocks that bring a significant income to the fisheries sector in the region. The EC proposal aims to restore these stocks to levels that can ensure social and economic viability for the anglers and the jobs that depend on it. The proposal has been submitted to the European Parliament and the Council in order to reach an agreement.


The aim of the present study is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the impact of Landing Obligation on the maximum sustainable yield taking into account the European Commission multi-annual plan for fish stocks in the western Mediterranean Sea. Results will be useful to put forward recommendations and policy-relevant advices for decision-makers. The approach is focused on five main aspects. These are:

  • A summary of the current state of MSY modelling in the case-study region, including specific outcomes and main conclusions;
  • A quantitative bio-economic analysis based on the specific case study in the region on the likely consequences of the landing obligation and the multiannual plan regarding the objectives of the CFP, especially the MSY;
  • To assess whether the CFP tools are technically adequate and sufficient and the causes of their possible current under-utilization;
  • A qualitative and if possible quantitative assessment of the main impacts that the landing obligation and the multiannual plan in the context of the MSY may have in the whole ecosystem of the region, identifying and analyzing the related uncertainties;
  • Based on these analyses, recommendations will be made to the European Parliament providing the knowledge on the best way to implement the discards plans and multiannual plans according to the different scenarios at regional level.

The methodology used comprised a twofold methodological approach:

  • Provision of a general overview, based on the collection and processing of information available on Spanish Mediterranean Fisheries. Information from other areas was also included when relevant;
  • Bio-economic modelling on the impacts of effort reduction and selectivity change in Spanish demersal Mediterranean fisheries to complement published studies.

Mediterranean fisheries are characterized by a high diversity of species and fishing methods. Spanish landings in the Mediterranean are dominated by small pelagic species, mostly sardine and anchovy. Demersal species represent a smaller proportion of total annual landings but they fetch higher market values. Both landings and fleet size show a decreasing trend in the Spanish Mediterranean.

The EU requests independent stock assessment advice from the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (hereafter GFCM) since the 1990s. The GFCM advises on all Mediterranean stocks and the Black Sea, but this has little or no impact on management within EU waters because there are few transboundary stocks.

Advice is also requested from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (hereafter STECF), the European Commission’s own scientific advisory committee. The statistical methods applied to each stock are most often the same in both organisations and there is agreement in their results.

Most stocks of the main commercial demersal species (hake, red mullet, red and blue shrimp, deep-water rose shrimp, sardine and anchovy) are evaluated with fully analytical methods, such as XSA (Extreme Survivor Analysis), Y/R (Yield per Recruit) or SCAA (Structured Catch At Age). Blackspot seabream was evaluated with four different methods, GADGET among them, but the WG opted for qualitative advice. Nevertheless, GFCM experts stressed recently the need to advance the methodologies used for assessments and to improve data quality. With regard to assessment methodologies the Group agreed to the idea of adopting a protocol for data-limited stocks (DLS), and applying an external peer review that could assist experts in the implementation of new methodologies. This would be supported with further training opportunities.

In brief, many of the shortcomings affecting the evaluation of Mediterranean stocks, i.e. data gaps, uncertainties in stock definition, biased observer data, multispecific fisheries, fishers’ behaviour, to name a few, are also common to North Atlantic stocks. Furthermore, most Mediterranean stocks are exploited by local fleets, unlike Atlantic stocks. These facts point the lack of political will as the main explanation for the different outcomes regarding resource management in both seas.

A bio-economic model using data from GSA 06 as case study has been developed to analyse different scenarios of effort reduction combined with improved selectivity. The model considers the interaction between the trawler fleet (DTS) and the artisanal fleets (HOK and GNS/GTR) on the stocks of the main commercial species evaluated by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM).

The model shows that business-as-usual scenario will produce a gradual increase of fishing mortality and a decrease in SSB and catches of the main species, with the subsequent economic loss (profits and crew wage) for both trawler and artisanal fleets. The economic losses will be larger for the trawler fleet due to their geater fuel dependence. But fish markets and landing ports are essentially sustained by trawler catches. Thus the loss of trawlers might cause the demise of the artisanal fleet as well, rather than providing new market opportunities for them.

A different scenario where reduction of fishing time to decrease fishing mortality of red mullet to FMSY levels is implemented progressively results in a long period of losses in trawlers compared with the present situation.

The best results are obtained combining selectivity improvement with a reduction of fishing time equivalent to one or two fishing days per week.

The economic impact of the Landing Obligation is expected to be low, assuming that labour costs remain stable and that further investments for additional infrastructure will not be required. It should be considered that in the Mediterranean, catch volume is much smaller than hold capacity of fishing boats, thus the landing obligation will not affect the carrying capacity for target species.

Any reduction of fishing mortality will produce a reduction of revenues in the short term and an increase in the long term. However the socio-economic impact of the reduction of fishing mortality will differ depending on how the reductions are distributed throughout the year. Reducing fishing days on a weekly basis across all fleet segments will have a lower socio-economic impact than concentrating the reduction in a single season or in a lower number of boats.

The Common Fisheries Policy in the Mediterranean has been traditionally characterised by a suite of technical measures that have not change significantly with time. In this context the  Mediterranean fleet has decreased in number but the improvement of engines, fishing gears and other technological devices have increased catchability. It seems necessary to change the management strategy, adding adaptive management measures to adjust fishing mortality to stock status.

The new proposal for a multi-annual plan for demersal fisheries in the western Mediterranean introduces the concept of total allowable effort, based in a maximum number of fishing days per year as a way to adjust mortality to stock status. However, the proposal does not regulate how to distribute the fishing days throughout the year and across the fleet. It is also important to avoid shortages in traditional markets and to prevent the fishermen from closing traditional commercial circuits. Changes in trade could cause collateral effects that our model cannot simulate.

Furthermore, the transfer of fishing possibilities between boats would concentrate fishing rights in larger companies, reducing the fleet but also changing the economic structure of Mediterranean fisheries, with a severe impact on employment.

For all these reasons, the reduction of fishing time has to be complemented with improved selectivity for trawlers, permanent closures and local co-management plans that involve resource users in management.

A combination of the reduction of fishing time, the establishment of closed areas to protect populations of target species, the improvement of selectivity and local co-management plans should suffice to change the status of Mediterranean stocks and bring fisheries to MSY levels. The introduction of output controls for demersal fisheries will create new problems rather than help to achieve this goal due to the high diversity of catches in Mediterranean demersal fisheries

According to the 2017 MaltaMedFish4Ever Ministerial Declaration on the future of Mediterranean fisheries, all relevant stocks have to be managed with multiannual plans by 2020. This means that a new management plan has to be prepared as well for small pelagic species in the western Mediterranean.

The objective of the Landing Obligation is to avoid discards of marketable fish incentivized by the CFP and it will not affect discards of unregulated species. In Atlantic fisheries, the Landing Obligation will reduce quota and, consequently, will reduce fishing mortality. Neverless, in the Mediterranean the Landing Obligation will not result in a reduction of unwanted catch and it will not help to reach MSY.

In general, the larger the size at first capture, the better, since gains due to growth are higher than losses by natural mortality. However, Minimum Conservation References Sizes (MCRS) only are useful when they contribute to reduce the mortality of juveniles, and this is not the case for some of the species with MCRS established in Council Regulation (EC) No 1967/2006, which should be reviewed accordingly.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/629-179

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1 Comment

CASTEL · November 16, 2018 at 3:21 pm

Article intéressant mais des abberations criantes tout de même. On sent bien que cet articles soit disant scientifique, qui sert aux politiques européens pour prendre leurs décision, est déjà influencé par la pêche industrielle et son lobbyisme, pour preuve cette simple phrase de l’article : “L’ introduction de contrôles de la production pour les pêcheries démersales créera de nouveaux problèmes plutôt que d’aider à atteindre cet objectif en raison de la grande diversité des captures dans les pêcheries démersales méditerranéennes.” Cela signifie en clair : surtout pas de contrôles sur cette pêche. Vous croyez que les pêcheurs vont s’auto-controller ? La bonne blague !!

Cette seconde phrase est également : “Ainsi, la perte de chalutiers pourrait entraîner la disparition de la flotte artisanale, plutôt que de leur offrir de nouveaux débouchés.” entièrement faux. Si les débarquements de chalutiers industriels ne se font pas, c’est évidemment la pêche artisanale qui en profitera et s’il n’y a pas assez de poisson en criée et bien tant mieux pour les pêcheurs artisanaux qui vendront leur poisson à des prix intéressants pour eux. Ce genre de petite phrase n’ont rien à faire dans cet article. STOP A LA PECHE INDUSTRIELLE

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