What is the Landing Obligation?

In a quest to eliminate discards from European fisheries, the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) established the Landing Obligation (LO)  – a requirement to retain on board all quota species caught. This is also commonly referred to as the ‘discard ban’. The LO has been gradually phased in since 2015, with final, full implementation carried out from 1st January 2019. The Landing Obligation applies to many commercial species in all EU waters, and this project focuses on the North Sea and North Western waters. ‘North Sea’ covers ICES areas IIIa and IV and includes IIa for demersal fisheries. North Western waters cover ICES areas Vb, VI and VII.

Map of ICES areas.

What does it mean for fishermen?

The introduction of the Landing Obligation has represented a step-change in fishing practices for fishers across Europe, who previously were able to throw excess or unwanted catch overboard. Full implementation and compliance with the Obligation represents a significant challenge across the continent’s mixed fisheries picture.

Finding solutions to the Landing Obligation

Gear selectivity has a big part to play in reducing unwanted catch at source – before it's taken from the sea – and there has been a substantial amount of research into which gear modifications can successfully minimise discarding for a range of species and fisheries.

The GearingUp tool contains practical, detailed information about gear performance and the difference in catches observed in over one hundred gear selectivity trials tested in Northern European fisheries, broken down by species and other factors. Users can see the exact results of the gear tested in a given fishery and make an informed decision about whether to use those modifications or similar ideas, on their vessel.

What are the financial consequences of gear modifications?

Seafish has developed Best Practice Guidance to make it easier for those involved in fishing gear trials to compare the cost and revenue of using old versus new gear and to provide a standardised approach to assess and report the financial effectiveness of experimental gear.

If you are taking part in trials or have seen a gear modification you would like to investigate further you can use Seafish's guidance to make it easier and faster to compare the costs and revenues from using old versus new gears or from changing tactical decisions of when and where to fish.

You can email geartrialeconomics@seafish.co.uk for further questions or comments.

Read the Best Practice Guidance now

If you have questions about the implementation of the Landing Obligation, or if you would like to know more about the research taking place to eliminate discarding, please visit the links to our partners’ pages and other useful information resources.

General Landing Obligation information:

Landing Obligation at EU level:

Advice from Advisory Councils:

Research-led projects and institutions working towards the elimination of discards:

Workshops and forums discussing initiatives to reduce discarding:

Seafish & GearingUp will be working together to supplement each other. Whilst the Seafish gear database gives indications of the effectiveness for retaining and releasing common species for each selectivity device, GearingUp presents specific data of gear performance in industry-led trials.

Where relevant, the GearingUp tool will also have links to the DiscardLess fact catch sheets which contain detailed information about catch comparison and selectivity trials that have taken place in the North Atlantic and adjacent seas.

 UK governmental guidance:

UK funding for gear innovation

EU funding for gear innovation: