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Horta ,  January 07, 2019

Azores guarantee exemption from compulsory unloading of bycatch species

The Regional Secretary for the Sea, Science and Technology welcomed the European Commission's decision to exempt the regional fishing fleet from unloading bycatch species, stressing that it represents "an important achievement" of the Azores in terms of international fishing policies.
It should be noted that EU fishing fleets must eliminate the practice of discarding all species subject to the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) scheme and the quota system from January 1.
Gui Menezes pointed out that the exemption from the compulsory unloading of species caught using hook and line fishing gear was enforced due to the arguments presented by the Azorean Government to the European Commission last year in collaboration with regional scientists.
"The arguments were grounded on social and economic factors as well as on data scientifically validated by different monitoring projects supported by the Regional Directorate for Fisheries. These projects have been presented at the University of the Azores, namely the DiscardLess project and the tagging programme in the context of the annual campaign directed to demersal species in the Azores," said the Regional Secretary.
Gui Menezes pointed out that most fishing activities are carried out in the Azores using fishing hook gear, especially hand lines. This is a selective technique with a low rate of unwanted catches compared to the use of other fishing gear, with many of the target species, namely red seabream, presenting a "high survival capacity."
"Red seabream, a particularly important species for the sector's income in the Region, yielded 6.4 million Euros in the first sale in 2018," said the government official.
"If the Regional Government's arguments had not been accepted, all specimens caught would have to be included in the quota allocated for this species. This situation would have a negative impact both in environmental terms and in economic terms," defended Gui Menezes.
The Regional Secretary recalled that the compulsory unloading of bycatch species "could represent a setback in the awareness-raising work that has been carried out with shipowners and fishers for the return of smaller specimens or those from species of low commercial value as far as they can be discarded alive to the sea at the time of catch."
Gui Menezes also highlighted the fact that, for the first time, the Azores have reached a historic increase in the red seabream quota, which will be set to 566 tonnes. According to him, 2018 was "the second best year ever in the Region in terms of fish sold in auction, reaching 38 million Euros."
The recommendations drawn up by the South West Waters Advisory Council were approved by the European Commission, namely by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), resulting in the adoption of recent transitional discard plans (2019-2021) by means of a Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/2033 of October 18.
The plans detail the species covered, catch areas, type of fishing gear, provisions on catch documentation and type of exemption.
The regulation is applicable from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2021.


Official government press-releases presented in all foreign languages interfaces of the Azorean Government Portal (Portal do Governo dos Açores) are a sub-set of the government's official press-releases daily output and are chosen for translation and publication on the foreign language interfaces based on audience segmentation criteria. The entire collection of the Azorean government press-releases is available in portuguese, here, from the GACS Press Office site.

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