Om Svenskt fiske



Sweden offers EU lesson in how to stop dumping fish overboard

-- By Kait Bolongaro
1/11/18, 10:00 AM CET

Sweden says it has the answer to one of the biggest policy challenges for EU fishermen.

The EU’s landing obligation bans fishers from tossing the fish they caught but don’t want overboard by requiring them to bring all species subject to quotas ashore. The rule, set four years ago, will be a must for all stocks managed by quotas by 2019 in an effort to prevent overfishing. And as of this month, it’s already being extended to more EU waters.

The new rule requires that if if fishers are aiming for plaice, they don’t then just throw cod caught along with their prime target overboard.

Environmentalists say changes to how the industry operates, such as larger vessels and bigger nets, means that more fish are being caught. This increase is hitting fish populations, pushing some stocks to the verge of collapse. European fishermen say the legislation is too complicated to implement and are nervous about meeting the deadline a year from now.

That’s where the Swedes come in: Their system, developed with environmentalists and fishermen, boils down to fishers helping one another if they’ve caught too much of one species.

Each vessel is given a certain quota for each species. Fishermen can borrow quota from each other in a modified individual transferable quota (ITQ) system to swap the unwanted catch. Trades are managed online, so authorities can monitor who switches with whom. Unlike most ITQ schemes, the swap isn’t permanent and returns to its original owner each year.

“This system is working so easily,” said Peter Olsson, who is head of the Swedish Fishermen’s Federation and someone who uses the system. He says it works because since fish swim together, fishermen accidentally catch species they don’t have quota for. Under this system, they can swap for quota from another fisherman so that they can keep on fishing instead of having to haul up their nets, quit fishing, and head to shore.

Olsson added that because the transfer is temporary, it prevents larger vessels from holding all of Sweden’s share for specific stocks.

This system “illustrates how it is possible through smart management to make compliance with the conservation mandates of the Common Fisheries Policy feasible,” said Jessica Landman, senior director at the non-profit EDF Oceans Europe.

“The whole approach with this [management plan] is to work with fishermen, listen to their recommendations and priorities and what they want to get out of it so the government makes that their central motivator to design a management system with that in mind.”

Olsson says it used to be common practice in Sweden and across Europe to throw back undersized fish or species without quota or value. Changes to the Common Fisheries Policy in 2014 brought in the landing obligation, which is also known as the discard ban, at the behest of environmental organizations.

“There is a will among fishermen around Europe to do the discard ban right. In our hearts we totally agree that we shouldn’t throw back fish, but we must give fishermen the tools to work with and the opportunity to do the right thing,” Olsson said.

Despite its potential, the Swedish model may not be widely copied by other EU countries.

“During the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, Spain considered an EU-wide system the best option to try to solve the problem of the landing obligation, so I am sure that the Swedish model could be a solution, but I am sure some countries will oppose,” said Javier Garat, secretary general of Spanish industry group CEPESCA. The Commission’s efforts at a system for the bloc didn’t make it into the updated version of the CFP.

He said that fishermen from some countries feared that the system would prove to be “unstable,” particularly when conducted across borders.

And others in the fisheries sector said the new Swedish system pushes out small-scale fishermen to the benefit of larger vessel owners and should be avoided.

“Are you going give me some of your quota out of the goodness of your heart because I need it and you don’t? That’s almost creating a black market where I could pay you under the table,” said Nils Höglund, fisheries policy officer at Coalition Clean Baltic, an environmental group. “I don’t see any other development out of it.”

He added that fishermen simply need to change the ways they fish to comply with the landing obligation.

“It comes back to my major problem with all of it: It’s always about facilitating trawlers,” he said. “The trawl sucks and it’s really poor performance. It’s not fit for purpose.”

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