The Norwegian ban originally covered cod and haddock in the economic zone north of 62°N, but the ban has been gradually expanded so that today it is prohibited to discard most species of fish in Norwegian waters.
It is important to note that the discard ban is only part of a larger, comprehensive package of policies by which Norway tries, in a pragmatic way, if not to totally eliminate the discard problem, then at least to minimize it. The most important measures are mesh size, selectivity rules, restriction on the use of trawls and other gears, seasonal closures, by-catch rules, minimum sizes and discard ban. The main objective is to promote an exploitation pattern where recruits and undersized fish are spared, and where unwanted by-catch can be minimized.
Discard of fish means a massive waste of food and potential income. Discard also leads to unrecorded catches, which results in a poorer scientific basis for our management decisions. Russia, the Faroe Islands and Iceland have later introduced similar discarding bans. In EU waters, on the contrary, it is prohibited to keep on board or land catches taken in contravention to the regulations.
In 2007, however, the European Council of Ministers agreed to restructure the management policy by gradually working to reduce discards the fisheries. The EU’s new policy in this field is of course welcome seen from a Norwegian perspective. Norway and the EU have a joint responsibility to manage fish stocks in the North Sea. In the period 2008 – 2010, the Norwegian/EU cooperation has result in the introduction of a number of measures to reduce discard.
Discard of unwanted fish and other non-target species represent a significant proportion of global marine catches and discarded bycatch is largely unregulated and unreported on a global basis. Therefore, the matter is on the agenda regionally and globally. An important step was made when NEAFC in November last year adopted a ban on discard on in its regulatory area in international waters. Norway has also taken the initiative to adopt a global action plan to reduce discard of fish. Through the Fisheries Committee of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (COFI), a proposal can be adopted in 2011.