In its edition of January 21st 2018, the digital version of the newspaper “FARO de VIGO” titled “eleven months for the perfect storm”. In any other part of the world, other than in Vigo, Galicia, one could be talking about the “remake” of a Hollywood premiere or of an extraordinary meteorological phenomenon. There is no need to explain, because everyone knows that we are talking about the entry into force, from 1 January 2019, of the final phase of a policy agreed between the Ministers of the fisheries area in the European union, according to which everything captured must remain on board and unload ashore.
This measure affects the whole of the EU, but it is a serious issue in places like Galicia and why not, all over Spain. It happens that fishing in Spain is the direct means of life of hundreds of thousands of families.
The dreaded “discard zero”, from which it has been spoken since 2013, would provoke, to be applied plainly, serious damages, especially on the artisanal fleet. In April, the fisheries Minister of the Xunta de Galicia Isabel García Tejerina, formally requested the EU authorities to exempt from the obligation to apply the rule to the artisanal fleet, given its low impact on fisheries.
There are talk of boats moored before time and of fishermen unemployed. The incidental catch will be deducted from the boat´s, so the application of the standard can cause drastic reductions in their working seasons, depending on how effective they are to capture their target species and sizes.
The Eu’s zero-discard policy points, in short, to bringing everything captured to port, regardless of whether the fisherman has a quota for its capture. There will be species that will not be eligible for direct human consumption and will be used mainly for the manufacture of fish meal.
There are many challenges for the fishing sector as of the entry into force of this rule in its entirety. It happens that they are not clear yet what will be the management practices of bycatch that will continue to exist and will now reach the Docks. In Galicia, a region that stands out for the large number of artisanal fishing boats that unload in the different “Lonxas” or Fishermen’s markets, it is not clear the latter know how to treat that merchandise that is not of the usual commercial species. There are not even enough flour factories to process the product.
In this context, its imperative the incorporation of technology to help the fisherman to reduce the bycatch. In this way the discard will no longer be a serious problem.
SPLIT BEAM echo sounder technology can play a key role here, because it provides the fisherman with accurate information about the size of the fish before catching them. Even in some cases and with the help of interpreting the various instruments on board, the fisherman could approach to have an idea of whether it is a commercial species or not. However, the identification of species, with a high degree of certainty using acoustic means, still a very difficult goal to achieve with commercial equipment.
By displaying and comparing marks at different frequencies, considering not only the shape, but also the depth of the shoal, as well as other factors of the environment (water temperature, season, water salinity, etc.), added to the Information provided by the SPLIT BEAM equipment, the fisherman can manage to improve the focus of his catches. It is not a question of what a single instrument can or cannot do, but of the combination of the information provided by the whole of the available technology and the experience of the fisherman.
It is key to reduce the impact of incidental fishing, and therein lies the solution to the problem of Discarding. In other fisheries it has been achieved, always with a multidimensional approach, which necessarily includes the incorporation of technology and the improvement of fishing Practices. The economic penalty that implies not being able to discard and sell the quota at a low price provides an incentive to the fisherman, but it does not solve the problem at all.
Training, technological assistance and financial aid to the fisherman are factors that will contribute to the solution, if not, to moderate the effects of this policy which, on the other hand, pursues the final goal of achieving sustainable fisheries in the long term.