Maritime Forum

Maritime Forum Themes


Study 2006-17 lot 1: Impact assessment of discard policy for specific fisheries

Published on: Wed, 19/05/2010 - 16:20
Table of Contents

    Based on international experience and stakeholder consultation, a methodological framework was developed for the impact assessment of Commission policy proposals to address discards. The framework was applied and tested in specific EU fisheries.

    Why this study?

    The Commission considers that by catches and discards in EU fisheries continue to remain at levels which are politically, economically, biologically, and socially unacceptable. The Commission, after identifying the problem of discards in European fisheries, has published a Policy Proposal to reduce unwanted by-catches and eliminate discards[1], alongside an Impact Assessment[2]. These two documents define the objectives of the Policy Proposal and develop the main policy options to tackle the issue in European fisheries. The Policy Proposal recognized that an implementation plan for specific fisheries would have to be developed to assess impacts on a fishery by fishery basis. In this respect, this study was initiated to develop a procedure to be followed for Impact Assessment of discards policy actions in individual fisheries.



    1. Provide a review of EU and international experience on reduction of discards.
    2. Develop a methodological framework for the analysis of economic, social and environmental  impacts of Commission policy proposals to address discards, elaborating the Commission Impact Assessment guidelines[3].
    3. Evaluate the feasibility of proposed options to implement the EU Discards Policy.



    Discard policies were reviewed and evaluated in four case study countries (Canada, Iceland, Norway, and New Zealand) and three RFMOs (Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization - NAFO, Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources – CCAMLR, and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission – IOTC). Experts were used in each case to gather and organize available information, such as a description of fisheries, a description of policy instruments used against discards and their efficiency and efficacy, the evolution of discards since the relevant policy was introduced, the socioeconomic impacts of the discards policy and relevant measures adopted to accompany, alleviate or compensate these impacts, and assessing any enforcement and control issues that have impacted the success of discard policy. The results and lessons learned from the case studies were applied in the development of the Methodological Framework, alongside the results of the stakeholder consultation.


    The Methodological Framework was the main output of the project. It was intended to guide the evaluation of the likely impacts of individual regulations or specific proposals, which the Commission would prepare to implement the discards policy in specific fisheries. It particularly identified the types of data and information required to reach a full evaluation of the impacts and gave guidance on how the impacts interact in complex systems. A three-step process to analyze impacts was adopted:

    1. Identification of impacts. It was based on the Commission Impact Assessment Guidelines, which set out a list of general economic, social and environmental impacts against which policy options should be screened.
    2. Qualitative assessment of which impacts are the most significant. This was done through the development of an ‘impact matrix’, identifying the most important impacts of the different policy instruments.
    3. Advanced qualitative and/or quantitative analysis of impacts. Further in-depth analysis of impacts was conducted based on various kinds of structured approaches and modeling techniques.


    To further explore the applicability of the main policy options in the context of Community fisheries, a stakeholder consultation was undertaken within four selected fisheries: North Sea flatfish beam trawl; North Sea pelagic trawl; Portuguese crustacean and finfish demersal trawl; and Portuguese pelagic trawl. ‘Test’ impact assessments were expanded for the North Sea flatfish beam trawl and the Portuguese crustacean and finfish demersal trawl, and used as a means of testing the methodological framework at the fishery level.


    Several important elements emerged from this project:

    • solutions should be tailored to the specific circumstances of each fishery
    • the support of the measures by the industry is essential
    • there are specific high-risk and uncertainty areas (price and wider economy impacts) that the full impact assessment should address in detailed models
    • the possible introduction of a discard ban needs to be flexible in the transfer of quota
    • mechanisms to reduce the take of unwanted catch need to be developed
    • an important component is the deployment of at-sea observers to accurately record the composition of the catch and compliance with discard regulations
    • legislative changes will need to be coherent with recent development



    Full title

    Impact assessment of discard policy for specific fisheries



    Full report



    [1] European Commission 2007. ‘A policy proposal to reduce unwanted by-catches and eliminate discards in European fisheries’ (COM(2007) 136).

    [2] European Commission 2007. Accompanying document to ‘A policy proposal to reduce unwanted by-catches and eliminate discards in European fisheries’. Impact Assessment (SEC(2007) 380).

    [3] European Commission 2005. Impact Assessment Guidelines (SEC(2005) 791).