To reduce the practice of discarding commercially fished organisms, several measures such as a discard ban and extra allowances on top of landings quotas (“catch quota”) have been proposed by the European Commission. However, for their development and successful implementation, an understanding of discard patterns on a European scale is needed. In this study, we present an inter-national synthesis of discard data collected on board commercial, towed-gear equipped vessels operating under six different national flags spanning from the Baltic to the Mediterranean Seas mainly between 2003 and 2008. We considered discarded species of commercial value such as Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus), European hake (Merluccius merluccius), and European plaice (Pleuronectes platessa). Comparisons of discard per unit effort rates expressed as numbers per hour of fishing revealed that in the Mediterranean Sea minimum size-regulated species such as hake are generally discarded in much lower numbers than elsewhere. For most species examined, variability in discard rates across regions was greater than across fisheries, suggesting that a region-by-region approach to discard reduction would be more relevant. The high uncertainty in discard rate estimates suggests that current sampling regimes should be either expanded or complemented by other data sources, if they are to be used for setting catch quotas.
Ices Journal of Marine Science, 2014, Vol 71, Issue 5, p. 1235-1245