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EFF grants working to reduce discards

01 Jul 2011

The European Fisheries Fund (EFF), Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and Defra are providing over £300,000 towards two projects which aim to help reduce fish discards in England.

The funding, awarded to scientists from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), is being used towards helping fishermen in the southwest and northwest to adapt their fishing equipment and make it more selective.

In, Cornwall, 19 skippers of otter trawlers have collaborated with Cefas scientists to design and test modified trawl equipment, which it is hoped will reduce discards of dab, gurnards, plaice, dogfish and whiting. The three-year pilot, called the SWOT (South West Otter Trawl) project is due to finish in summer 2011 and is being supported by a £100,000 (70%) EFF grant.

In Cumbria and Lancashire a further £100,000 (43%) grant from the EFF is being used towards the North West Discards Project. This project is using the knowledge and skills of local fishermen and net makers to develop modified trawl equipment which it is hoped will help reduce the numbers of juvenile flatfish discarded during prawn catching.

Cefas scientists working on both projects will record and investigate the impact and effectiveness of the new gear in comparison with traditional fishing methods. They will use a mixture of techniques to obtain information about the fishermen’s catch, including onboard observers and CCTV recording equipment.

Cefas estimates that English and Welsh otter trawl vessels working in the South West Area VII discard around 60% of their catch, some 30-50 million fish each year.

Before the Cumbria project started they also carried out a consultation exercise with fishermen in Whitehaven, Maryport and Fleetwood, Lancashire which identified that juvenile flatfish such as plaice were the species commonly discarded in the area.